18 April, 2017
Justice Secretary Liz Truss announces new law that makes sexual communication with a child a criminal offence with effect from 3 April 2017
In October 2014 the NSPCC launched their 'Flaw In The Law' campaign to call for a clear new offence that would make it always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child. Over 80% of people surveyed by the NSPCC agreed that this should be illegal, with 3 out of 4 people thinking that it already was. Indeed similar legislation has been in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland since 2010. Over 50,000 people signed the petition calling for new legislation, before the Prime Minister, at a major global summit in December 2014, announced that it would be introduced.
Recent new data reveals offences of this nature have doubled in the last year with over 2,000 offences recorded in the West Midlands alone.
As of 3 April 2017 the Police can now charge those who engage in inappropriate sexual messaging to children in England and Wales by virtue of s67 Serious Crime Act 2015 which serves to insert a new section 15A into the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The new offence criminalises conduct where an adult intentionally communicates with a child under 16 (whom the adult does not reasonably believe to be aged 16 or over) for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification. The new offence covers both online and offline communication, including all social media, emails and written correspondence and is likely to encompass inappropriate chat room conversations, sending sexually explicit text messages to a child or encouraging the child to participate in such communications. It is hoped that by intervening sooner Police can stop the abuse before any physical abuse starts. Adult Groomers who target children can now expect to face up to 2 years in prison and be placed automatically on the Sex Offenders Register.
Victims' Commissioner Baroness Newlove stated; " We need to make sure we are doing everything possible to protect children from online grooming and predators. This new law will help keep children safe in a digital world and prevent future victims."
Peter Wanless from the NSPCC commented :- "This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the 'Flaw in the Law' Campaign. Children should always be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK. This law will give Police in England and Wales the powers to protect children from online grooming and enable the Authorities to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts"
Justice Secretary Liz Truss stated "In a world of mobile phones and social medial, children are ever more vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust. The best way of protecting our young people from the evils of child abuse is to stop it happening in the first place. This new offence will give the Courts the powers to jail anyone who sends a sexual communication to a child and stop the process of grooming before it starts"
Parents are being encouraged to keep children safe on line by checking privacy settings, and by reporting unusual activity to the Police or the NSPCC. For more information about keeping children safe online or advice on how to encourage conversations with your child about staying safe, go to :-https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/flaw-law/