Ignorance of the Law is No Defence?: Blameworthiness and Deficient Sexuality Education

3:30pm - 5:00pm / Tuesday 4th June 2019 / Venue: Seminar Room 4 Rendall Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Research
  • 01517958049
  • Suitable for: Children's Rights Academics, EU Law, Children's Rights Law
  • Admission: Free
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Research Seminar with Dr Catherine O'Sullivan, School of Law, University College Cork


In this paper it is argued that the ignorantia juris non excusat maxim should not be applied to underage persons who engage in willing sexual activity and who would otherwise be liable for sexual offences. This position is taken because the ignorance of the law pertaining to the age of consent that young people have is one that is artificially imposed on them through decisions made by parents and educators not to provide them with adequate sex education. The understanding here of adequate sex education encompasses one that includes information on the legal consequences for them if they engage in underage sexual activity. Young people’s confusion around the parameters of consent will be contextualised with reference to data on understandings of permissible sexual activity generally.

Catherine O'Sullivan is a graduate of UCC (B.C.L. 1995, LL.M. 1996). She completed a Ph.D. at Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada, in 2005. Her doctoral thesis analyses the legal and societal reaction to a sexually violent female offender. Her main research interests lie in the following areas: Criminal Law; Criminology; Gender and the Law; and Law and Literature.

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