New legislation will make it a specific offence for an adult to send a sexual message to a child
In a victory for our Flaw in the Law campaign, the Prime Minister today announced plans for new legislation to make it a specific offence for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.
The move, made at the #WeProtect Children Online summit, follows NSPCC calls for current gaps in legislation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be closed.
No specific offence currently exists making it illegal for someone over 18 to send a sexual message to a child under 16.
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said:
"The Prime Minister's announcement today is a victory for our Flaw in the Law campaign but more importantly a major step forward in preventing online child abuse.
"More than 50,000 people backed our petition to make it a criminal offence for an adult to intentionally send a child a sexual message. So I am delighted that the Government has listened and taken decisive action to protect children and young people."
"The rise of online communication means that children are increasingly being exposed to sexual messages from adults, but in many cases the police have been powerless to act. The full force of the law can now be immediately brought to bear on anyone who grooms children for abuse online.
"We should never have to wait for a child to suffer sexual abuse before the law steps in to protect them. The police have told us that changing the law will vastly improve their tactics in dealing with grooming of children online and prevent contact sexual offences being committed.
"Of course a law only works if people report crime. So we now need to make sure that parents know that if an adult sends their child a sexual message they can report this to the police. And parents should have regular conversations with their children about who they are talking to online, and make clear that they won’t be in trouble if an adult sends them a sexual message.
"Children and young people should be careful about what they share online, and who with, and they should tell parents or another trusted adult about any inappropriate messages they receive."
Summit tackles online child sexual exploitation
Representatives from more than 50 countries, 23 leading technology companies and nine non-governmental organisations took part in the two-day Global Summit. The new law was just one part of a package of commitments that aim to tackle online child sexual exploitation and end the proliferation of child abuse imagery worldwide.
A new global fund – administered by Unicef – will be set up to combat online child sexual exploitation. This will be used to increase the ability of police and governments in developing countries to tackle the issue, and for them to link up more effectively with international law enforcement computer systems.
The NSPCC, along with other non-government organisations working to end the sexual exploitation of children online have made a number of commitments at the summit.