Melanie Philips: The end of childhood – what we lost when we dropped the age of consent

For a society obsessed with paedophilia, we’re disturbingly comfortable with sexualising childhood

In all the sound and fury about historic sex crimes against children, one crucial factor has been generally ignored. Last week, a review of the agencies dealing with the phenomenon of ‘grooming gangs’ in England said that more than 370 young girls in Oxfordshire had fallen victim to them over the past 15 years, and called for an urgent national debate into these ‘indescribably awful’ sex crimes. But the most shocking and overlooked aspect of the review was that, in Oxford, police and care workers dismissed evidence that girls as young as 11, 12 or 13 were being groomed for sex and repeatedly subjected to brutal sex crimes, intimidation and threats of violence, on the grounds that these were ‘very difficult girls making bad choices’.

Bad choices?