We support changes to the law to protect children from potential sex offenders

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Posted 15 October 2013, 5 comments
Natalie Williams
From our Policy team

We are working with Nicola Blackwood and the government to strengthen controls that protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation

young girl who has run away

We back Nicola Blackwood MP’s Childhood Lost campaign, which recently called on the government to act to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse. The campaign is supported by over 100,000 people and other leading children’s charities. 

The government is proposing changes in parliament

Due to the campaign’s success, the government is proposing to make changes (or amendments) to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill to improve the protection of vulnerable children and adults at risk of sexual harm. MPs discussed these in parliament late yesterday

You can read the briefing we produced for MPs on the changes which is also supported by four other leading children’s charities – NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Save the Children and Action for Children.

This year there were nearly 19,000 sexual crimes against children and at least 16,500 children are at risk of child sexual exploitation. The government has made much progress in tackling this issue, including supporting victims of sexual abuse to come forward and give evidence. 

However, we know from our work with child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation that the police do not have the correct measures at their disposal to intervene early to prevent, disrupt and prosecute individuals committing these abhorrent offences. The changes proposed will help achieve this and better protect children. 

Faster action and early intervention to prevent sexual harm

The government is proposing two new orders – a ‘Sexual Harm Prevention Order’ and ‘Sexual Risk Order’ - to enable the police to better protect children and vulnerable adults from potential sex offenders. 

On request from the police, the courts will be able to use these orders to instruct individuals about things they are not permitted to do. For example, the court may forbid them from contacting young people on the internet or approaching a named child.

A ‘Sexual Harm Prevention Order’ can be given by the courts to individuals who have been convicted of a sexual offence. A ‘Sexual Risk Order’ can be given to individuals who behave in a way to make the police concerned that they may sexually harm children or vulnerable adults.

The orders simplify the current system and allow for more immediate action to be taken against individuals judged to be capable of harming children.

Additional support for under 18s who receive orders

As things currently stand, these orders can be given to adults, as well as to young people under 18 whose behaviour causes concern. We believe that it is important that children under 18 subject to the orders are not criminalised. 

Some young people who may be subject to the new orders may have been the victims of sexual exploitation or become involved in grooming other children as a means of self-preservation, as this quote from a young person shows:

'Soon Bouncer really pushed me to get other girls to come along. I thought if I did that there might be less pressure on me, so I did it. I was dead upset when he went with the other girls but he said it meant nothing – just a bit of fun – everybody did it.'

We believe that the government must ensure that young people who are subject to these orders also receive the support they need. This may include an assessment of their welfare, emotional and behavioural needs, and therapeutic and/or educational support. It is crucial that the full circumstances, and underlying causes or reasons behind their behaviour are investigated and addressed. 

Working with the government to achieve change 

The government’s changes will give the police and the courts the powers to effectively prevent the sexual harm, abuse and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults.

We will continue to work closely with the government and Nicola Blackwood MP to support the amendments as they go through parliament.

 

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Comments

As an adult survivor of sexual, mental, physical abuse plus neglect I do find the laws fail to deal with the issues. The fact most of us only speak years later means that our parents and step parents got away with it. It's Christmas and my mother has her other, newer family around her. I have only my daughter but due to the court case my marriage ended - it's too much for non abused spouses to deal with...I spend most of Christmas alone. I still feel like I am being punished for telling the truth. He got away with it on 'abuse of trial' ironic due to it being abuse of children that caused the trial in the first place. She aided and abetted him and got some bad publicity but moved a few times so now is probably that lovely little old lady that bakes cakes down the road from more children who probably shouldn't be near her. They didn't prosecute her, but it took two years of counselling, and my counsellor nearly gave up because I was so brainwashed that I was a bad person...to finally be free of most of the mental abuse I received. Bruises, slaps even beatings mend, but the thought of being exposed to a doctor, have my clothes tugged at in public - this happened at a recent event because I felt uncomfortable in something I was wearing and tried to cover up...it floods back. Sometimes I wonder why I am here. I have a beautiful daughter and she is my focus and purpose, and for her to live free from that evil disgusting background of abuse is my greatest achievement. Many 'experts' write abused survivors off as being potential abusers which keep us silent and isolated. It's wrong and it's incorrect. These people that use abuse as a defence are liars - they would say that wouldn't they? It might lighten the sentence, however I think it should be doubled if that's their reasoning, defence - after all, if you go through it you'd never make anyone endure that. It's time that stigma ended. Has anyone ever thought about why so many men abuse little girls and why so many fewer women abuse children? The maths don't add up. The men who get caught use it as a defence, and it's no defence. Give them life. I found my place in life but I have to hide my past and that stops me having a full life and stops me meeting anyone to settle down with, and means financially I have to struggle on my own. It would be nice to share those burdens.
Thanks for your comment and sharing your story with us, it takes great courage to do so. Stories like yours are precisely why we are supporting this change of law so people can be prevented from harming children; like you we believe much more needs to be done to stop the harm before it even starts. Alongside this law, we are also campaigning to help and support more victims of abuse to be able to forward and disclose this abuse. All too often they are not believed or made to feel as if the abuse was their fault which means other victims feel too frightened to come forward. As you say, too many victims are only able to speak years later and this shouldn't be the case.
I wholly support this campaign but as the mother of a victim of a child sex offender I am disgusted that the offender is able to immediately return to the vicinity of our home with hours of his licence conditions ending, and cause massive psychological distress and fear. Something has to change in the law that provides children with additional assurance that the offender with an indefinite SexOffender Prevention Order is instructed to not cause further emotional harm by purposefully being within metres of his victims. It is unacceptable that a child has to rely on the Laws that are in place for adults (Protection from Harrassment) and even those are only invoked after the Harrassment has happened more than three times. It is a major gap in the safeguarding processes for children and none of the authorities associated with handling these cases seem to be able to affect any change. This situation is outrageous it is not acceptable that a registered sex offender's human rights are held over a child's. Victims are being failed by the system. I would appreciate some feedback please. Many thanks
Thanks for your comment. We agree with your concerns that victims are being failed by the system which is exactly why we support the introduction of these new orders. These orders can be applied indefinitely so the order can specify that the offender should not ever be in the vicinity of the victim's home. The offender will have to abide by those conditions or they could end up in prison. Guidance is also going be published alongside the new orders which will set out instructions to those issuing the orders that they should specify certain things that the offenders must be prevented from doing which could also include causing massive psychological distress and fear to their victim. We will be working with the government to ensure this happens as the guidance is drafted.
We need laws with teeth that protect child victims of child sex abuse and exploitation at all stages if their experience. Many victims are currently left high and dry by a legal system which fails them. It's time the weaknesses are reviewed and redressed.

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