Teen sex features will be legal 'risk'

Teen magazines could still be at risk of prosecution if they offer sex advice to teenagers after the Government decided not to accept proposed amendments to the sexual offences bill, writes Ruth Addicott.

The bill, which aims to crack down on paedophiles, was the subject of debate again in the House of Commons last week, following lobbying by the Teenage Magazine Arbitration Panel (TMAP).

The Periodical Publishers Association secured a new clause in the House of Lords in May, which enabled adults to give sex advice to teenagers to protect their emotional wellbeing.

Although that meant they could continue to publish problem pages, the bill could still have implications on other relationship features that often form a large part of the coverage in teen magazines such as Bliss, Cosmo GIRL! and Mizz.

Under the current bill, editors who publish an article such as the “100 best kissing tips” could be seen as inciting unlawful sexual activity between minors – an offence in itself – and there are fears the loophole could be exploited by fanatical groups or individuals wishing to take action by funding their own prosecution.

Parliament has expressly said that the CPS will not bring action.

Clare Hoban, PPA head of public and legal affairs, said the issue was now exhausted and there was little more that could be done to change it. “The knock-on effect is that in theory, magazines could be seen to be causing or inciting teenagers to do something that is unlawful. The problem we face is that changing the clause would have repercussions for the rest of the bill.

We are not going to advise magazines not to run those stories, but it would be a risk analysis for an editor on each occasion they ran such an article.”

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