Flaw in the Law

Government must give a start date to make an adult sending sexual messages to a child illegal.

The UK has some weird laws. It's illegal to:

  • wear a suit of armour in Parliament
  • carry a plank along a pavement
  • handle a salmon in suspicious circumstances.

Yet, incredibly, until recently it wasn't always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.

Almost 2 years ago, you helped us persuade the Government to change the Flaw in the Law. They brought forward new legislation, but we're still waiting for them to set a start date to bring the new law into force.

Until they do this, the Police can't charge people with the offence in England and Wales. Help us demand change.

Protect children from online grooming

The Government are dawdling to fix the Flaw in the Law. Ask them to set a start date for the law immediately.

Email the Justice Secretary

The story so far

Sending text messages.

In October 2014, the NSPCC launched Flaw in the Law, a campaign to call for a clear new offence that would make it always illegal for an adult to send a child a sexual message.

When we launched the campaign, over 80% of people said this should be illegal, while 3 out of 4 adults thought it already was (YouGov, October 2014).

Over 50,000 of you signed a petition and wrote to the Minister for Online Child Protection calling for a new law.

And thanks to this, the Government listened.

At a major global summit in December 2014 about online safety, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would introduce such a law.

The law was passed as part of the Serious Crime Act (2015). It is now formally a criminal offence for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.

We wouldn't have been able to change the law if it wasn't for you – so we're truly thankful.

Children's stories

"He'd arranged to meet the girls out of school on the Monday and take them off with him."

Read Leslie's story

What children tell Childline about online abuse

I'm still really haunted by what happened a while ago. I was chatting to an online friend almost every day about normal stuff. But then things started becoming sexual and he'd pretend to do horrible stuff. It felt really nasty and like I was having cyber sex. I think he was lying about his age.

This man got my mobile number from somewhere online and has been sending me sexual messages. I am ignoring him but this seems to be making him angry and he has become threatening. What should I do?

Has your child received a sexual message from an adult?

Your child is likely to feel distressed, upset or confused if they've received a sexual message. They might even feel guilty and that it's their fault.

Stay calm
By telling you, they might have prevented the situation from becoming more serious. Talk to them about what happened. Did they receive the message from a 'friend' or someone they thought was their age?

Check privacy settings
And make sure they know how to report abuse.

Offer help
Let them know they can call Childline at any time if they want to talk to someone about what they've seen.

Report it
Call the police to report it, or call the NSPCC helpline for more advice.

Find out more

Child abuse and neglect

Find out what child abuse is, how to spot the signs, who is affected and what you should do if you're worried about a child
More on abuse and neglect

Online safety

We’ve teamed up with O2 to help you keep children safe when they're using the internet, social networks, apps, games and more.
Online safety advice

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  1. Figures from YouGov.  Total sample size was 2,001 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 2nd - 4th October 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all adults in England, Wales and NI (aged 18+).