, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 137-154,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 30 Oct 2010

Sex, Dementia, Capacity and Care Homes


This paper addresses the appropriate legal and policy approach to sexual conduct involving people with dementia in care homes, where the mental capacity of one or both partners is compromised. Such conduct is prohibited by sections 34–42 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, but this article asks whether this blanket prohibition is necessarily the appropriate response. The article considers a variety of alternative responses, eventually arguing that clearer guidance regarding prosecution should be issued.

Versions of this paper have been given to a conference of old age psychiatrists in the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust (November 2007), the Annual Conference of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (July 2008), the Institute of Mental Health of the University of Nottingham (October 2008), the annual conference of the National Care Association (October 2008), ‘Sex, Law and Mental Capacity’ (a joint conference of the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Social Services, hosted by the Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, 15 January 2009), and at ‘Sex, Relationships and Mental Health’ (a conference hosted by the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, May 2009). I am grateful to the participants in those events for their comments and insights. Opinions expressed are of course my own.