Mandy Smith, the former child-lover and later wife of the Rolling Stone’s bassist Bill Wyman, said recently that the age of consent in Britain should be raised to 18.
Smith said at the currently legal age of consent, which is 16, girls are still emotionally vulnerable, and that even at age 18 some girls are still not ready for sex. She adds, “You can never get that part of your life, your childhood, back.”
Bill Wyman and his Rhythm Kings Middelburg 27-01-2009/Credit: Jacco Barth
Parliament first established the age of consent in the UK at 13 years in 1875 in response to concerns that young girls were being exploited for prostitution.
The age of consent was amended to 16 years in 1885 under the Criminal Amendment Act because girls as young as 12 were still being sold in the sex trade.
Christian campaigner Josephine Butler, who fought to protect girls and prostitutes from exploitation, was primarily responsible for the changed law.
Two years ago Parliament passed a bill requiring Northern Ireland to lower its age of consent from 17 years to 16 years. This caused a furor with Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly (NLA).
Some NLA warned this would only encourage sexual predators. Belfast’s Rape Crisis Centre also objected to the change, saying the new law would make it more difficult for them to protect vulnerable girls.
In the 1980s Smith was deemed by media as London’s Wild Child. She first dated Wyman when she was 13, and publicly admitted they had sex when she was 14 and Wyman was 48.
When Smith reached 16, the age of consent, their relationship became public and their marriage when she was 18 was depicted as a fairy tale wedding. Two years later they divorced.
Today Smith is 39, single, celibate, and living out a revived Catholic faith. She mentors young girls and is involved in charitable work. She laments a childhood that she “could never get back.”
Smith says, “Sometimes, I drive through the city on a Saturday night and see young girls wearing hardly any clothes on their way to a nightclub, while others are being sick on the pavement from binge-drinking. They take their values from some rubbish TV show or wannabe celebrities.” Smith’s father was absent since she was three, and she met Wyman in a club at a time when her mother was perennially ill.
Today Wyman is remarried with young children. In occasional interviews he refers to his “love affair” with Smith when she was 14 as a “midlife crisis.”
Writer Victoria Coren of The Observer wrote, “It’s not OK for a 48-year-old man to sleep with a 14-year-old, whoever he is. It’s not “a love affair.”
Smith says teenage girls today are caught up in a highly sexualized culture and its expectations.
“The girls I talk to are under pressure to be a certain way,” said Smith. “They think they should be having sex, living a certain life.”
Smith rediscovered her faith in 2005 and says “God is the only man in my life now. The great thing about the Church is that you can go back. It’s never too late,” she said.