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