The father of a 15-year-old girl made pregnant by her boyfriend said yesterday he was "a bit annoyed" by his daughter's condition, but really only shocked in that the father was 11 years old, and not 14 as he had thought.
Until six weeks ago Mr Ray Webster thought Emma was keeping company with a 14-year-old. When he learned that Sean Stewart was 11 he was discomfited.
As details of Emma Webster's pregnancy emerged yesterday, her parents spoke about their daughter's decision to keep her child and continue her education. Meanwhile, legal sources have indicated that both children could be prosecuted for under-age sex.
Following the case of the murder of James Bulger in 1993, the criminal age of responsibility was lowered to 10 years. The age of consent for heterosexual sex in Britain is 16 and, while legal sources have said it would be "most unlikely" for criminal proceedings to arise, "if either set of parents decided to bring a prosecution then consent is irrelevant when the children are under age.
"The children's mental capacity would be taken into consideration, but they could be prosecuted for assault."
Speaking from their home in Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire, Mr and Mrs Webster said Emma had been feeling unwell and went to the doctor but at no stage had they guessed. "Yes, we were a bit annoyed," said Mr Webster, "and a bit distressed when we found out Emma was pregnant. But as far as we were concerned she was just a normal 15-year-old girl who was pregnant, probably like thousands of others."
Emma insisted it was not until she informed Sean's mother, Mrs Theresa Stewart, of her pregnancy that she became aware of his true age. "His mum turned around and said: `How can an 11-year-old be the father?' I was shocked and I wanted to know why he had lied to me about his age."
Mrs Shirley Webster hopes Mr Webster was philosophical. "It was only when we went next door that we learned from his mother that he was 11 . . . I could not say anything. I kept my mouth closed. My wife was not happy. He's a very mature-looking boy for his age,. We believed he was about 14," he said.admitted.
Emma and Sean began their relationship at Christmas, but Emma has claimed that Sean gave the impression they were the same age. They became neighbours when his family moved to the area last November, but now the Stewart family is understood to have moved and is seeking refuge at an unknown address.
Guardian Service adds:
If Emma Webster's pregnancy is successful, Sean Stewart will become Britain's youngest father.
"I will bring up the child with its father," Emma said. "I was quite shocked when I found out I was pregnant, I had two options but in the end decided that I couldn't kill an unborn child."
Emma said that she wants to continue studying for eight GCSEs which she is due to take next year, including one exam in child-care.
She said she became pregnant after a condom Sean was using split.
"I was taking precautions," she said. At first Emma thought she had a stomach bug until the doctor told her she was pregnant.
Reacting to the case, the Family Planning Association reiterated its call for more comprehensive sex education in schools starting at a younger age.
Sean's mother, Theresa, said she was unhappy with the situation. "He is only a child. He doesn't really understand what is going on," she said.
"I don't think he has done anything that any other child in this village wouldn't have done if they had the chance," she said.
"Sean thinks he loves Emma and she thinks she loves him. You've got to laugh." Reacting to the case, the Family Planning Association reiterated its call for more comprehensive sex education in schools starting at a younger age.