For two years police forces have been unable to use a new law to bring sexual predators to justice, due to government delays.
A law was passed in March 2015 that would make it illegal for an adult to send a sexual communication to a child, either over the phone or via the internet. For more information, please see section 67 of the Serious Crime Act. This law is awaiting a “commencement order”, which is required before police forces may use it.
We see on a daily basis how the absence of this law leads to vulnerable children being put at risk of online predators. According to the Times, the number of child grooming cases has more than tripled in recent years.
This issue dates back 12 months to March 2016 when the Guardian reported on delays and miscommunication between the Ministry of Justice and Homes Office resulting in the 2015 law still not coming to power.
We see on a daily basis how the absence of this law leads to vulnerable children being put at risk of online predators.
The abuse lawyers at Slater and Gordon echo the NSPCC’s belief that, at a time when police forces face mounting pressures to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice, this piece of legislation, which is imperative in safeguarding children, still cannot be used.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, police recorded 1,122 offences of meeting a child after sexual grooming in the year to September 2016, up from 345 in 2010-11.
Without the power in place to use the law set out in March 2015, police are unable to arrest sexual predators for grooming and must rely on other offences – by which time it may tragically be too late for some victims of abuse.
Kim Harrison is a principal lawyer specialising in child abuse claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.
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