Law Professor John Spencer calls for age of consent to be lowered to 13
A NATIONAL radio program is to feature a call for the age of consent to be lowered to the age of 13.
Law professor John Spencer will argue that the current age of consent, fixed at 16, criminalises "half the population".
His controversial views will be debated on the BBC Radio 4 program Iconoclasts tomorrow evening.
In a preview of the live program, BBC programme makers said that the Cambridge University academic will argue that it should be "legal" for young teenagers to have sex.
He says the age of consent, fixed at 16 by Britain's Sexual Offences Act 2003, makes "criminals of half the population".
Last night MPs said it was "ludicrous" to consider lowering the age of consent at a time when teenage pregnancy rates are still soaring in UK.
About 30 per cent of young women in Australia become pregnant in their teenage years (mostly in their late teenage years) and about 50 per cent of them terminate of the pregnancy.
The rate of teenage pregnanices in the UK far exceeds that in Australia. In 1992, 1612 teenagers aged 16 and under became pregnant in Australia.
The latest figures in England and Wales show that 42,900 under-18s and 8,200 under16s became pregnant in 2007, with most of the pregnancies ending in abortion. The Government's controversial teenage pregnancy strategy, which has cost taxpayers more than £300million, was meant to halve the number of conceptions among girls under 18 in England between 1998 and 2010, but teenage pregnancy rates are now higher than they were in 1995.
Professor Spencer, who will set out his views before being challenged by a panel of experts, was unavailable today. But he has previously argued that the current laws surrounding the age of consent are "deeply unsatisfactory".
He is expected to argue that laws are heavy-handed and unenforceable with severe penalties for "minor offences".
Tory MP David Davies said: "It is vital that the law protects vulnerable young people from exploitation by adults.
"There are already far too many young people having underage sex and we have a terrible record for teenage pregnancies."
Fellow Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: "The proposition that the age of consent should be lowered is absolutely appalling. The situation is bad enough at the moment with high rates of teenage pregnancies and sexual diseases.
"I don't detect a great deal of public support for this. If there was, I would argue that it should be debated. I can only assume the BBC is trying to create the debate."
Senior police officers have also sparked controversy by calling for the age of consent to be reduced to as young as 13. Two years ago, Chief Superintendent Clive Murray argued that the law does not distinguish between sexual abuse and "youthful natural instinct".
In 2006 Terry Grange, former chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, claimed that men as old as 30 who have sex with underage girls should not necessarily be classed as paedophiles.
European countries including Austria, Bulgaria and Croatia set the age of consent at 14. It is 13 in Spain.
A BBC spokesman defended the decision to broadcast Professor Spencer's views and insisted the topic would be dealt with in a "sensitive manner".
He said: "Iconoclasts is a live discussion program, in which a controversial viewpoint from an individual who has professional credibility in his or her field is discussed, explored in detail and robustly challenged by panellists.
"The program does not advocate the issue, but is a platform for an individual viewpoint and a starting point for serious debate."