Flaw in the Law success: gap closed in Serious Crime Bill

New offence will make it illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child  thanks to petition by supporters

There was a major victory for our Flaw in the Law campaign yesterday as the law officially changed to make it always illegal for an adult to send a sexual communication to a child.

As a result of our campaign, the Prime Minister announced in December 2014 that the Government would introduce a new offence of sending a sexual communication to a child. This was introduced via the Serious Crime Bill which yesterday received royal assent, meaning it will now officially become law.

Teenage girl with mobile.

The new offence makes it illegal in England and Wales for an adult aged over 18 to send a sexual communication to a child under 16 for the purpose of sexual gratification and is expected to come into force later this year.

Petition signed by supporters highlighted need to close gap in the law

The new offence came after we highlighted gaps in existing legislation which meant police were unable to take action early in the grooming process to stop abuse escalating.

Over 50,000 people signed our petition calling on the Government to make it always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child. 

Police told us that the new offence will vastly improve their tactics for dealing with the grooming of children online and will help to prevent contact sexual offences being committed. 

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said:
“We are delighted that the new offence of sending a sexual communication to a child will now officially become law. It is an excellent victory for our Flaw in the Law campaign but more importantly a major step forward in preventing online child abuse.

"It is an excellent victory for our Flaw in the Law campaign but more importantly a major step forward in preventing online child abuse."
Peter Wanless / CEO

"Too often the police have been left powerless to take action to protect children who are increasingly being targeted by abusers online. The new offence will mean the full force of the law can now be brought to bear on anyone who grooms children online, and ensure that action can be taken to stop abuse escalating.

"We’ll continue to work with Government to support the creation of guidance for police, to help them use the new offence and to make sure that parents know that if an adult sends their child a sexual message they can report this to the police.

"The new law will make a significant contribution to protecting children online but we know there is still more to be done to protect children from growing abuse online.

"Parents should have regular conversations with their children about who they are talking to online, and there is a range of advice on online safety and being Share Aware to help parents do so.”

The offence will be applicable in England and Wales, and we anticipate that the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland will bring forward legislation to introduce the offence there in due course. A similar offence already exists in Scotland.


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