New crackdown on child groomers as tougher laws comes into force today
Tougher legislation to protect children online comes into force today which will make it illegal for adults to send sexual messages to children.Groomers who target children through mobile phones and social media now face 2 years in prison, after a new government law came into force today.
- New offence of sexual communication with a child introduced today.
- Groomers face up to two years in prison and will be automatically placed on the sex offenders register
- NSPCC commends Justice Secretary for doing “the right thing”
- Police will be able to arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
It comes as police figures show offences for meeting a child after grooming are on the rise in Wales
Police have recorded a rise in abusers meeting children after grooming them in Wales over the last five years – but from today, they will have the powers to stop groomers sooner.
A law was created in 2015 to make it illegal to send sexual messages to children, following the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign.
Similar legislation is already in place in Scotland and Northern Ireland and since 2010 more than 1,500 offences of grooming have been recorded by police in Scotland alone.
But the UK government failed to bring that law into force in England and Wales, leaving police’s hands tied and preventing them from arresting online groomers until further abuse had taken place.
In the year to March 2016 in Wales police recorded 44 offences of ‘meeting a child following sexual grooming’. This was up from 23 in 2011, according to Home Office figures.
North Wales Police saw a fall in the number of recorded offences, Dyfed Powys Police saw the largest increase in the recorded number of offences, from three in 2011/12 to 25 in 2015/16, while South Wales Police saw offences increase from three to 14.
Gwent also saw a fall in the number of recorded offences for meeting a child following sexual grooming.
It’s taken two years but from April 3 the UK Government is finally enacting a much-needed law that will make it illegal for adults to send sexual messages to children.
Amazingly, before this law was put into place, police couldn’t arrest adults who groomed young people in England and Wales in this way and could only take action if they met a child.
Our NSPCC ‘Flaw in the Law’ campaign demanding this change gained widespread support when it was launched with more than 50,000 people calling for action.
The Government passed the anti-grooming law in 2015 but it inexplicably sat on the statute books for two years without being enacted.
But after continuous campaigning from all our supporters the Secretary of State for Justice Elizabeth Truss has finally taken action and the flawed law is set to be fixed.
From April 3 any adult caught breaking the law will face up to two years in prison and be automatically placed on the sex offenders register.
The law will cover will cover both online and offline communication, including social media, e-mail, and letters.
I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a massive Thank You to everyone who supported our Flaw in the Law campaign over the last few years.
Your commitment and dedication has closed a legal loophole and helped protect a future generation of children from harm.
We know that the fight for safer childhoods is not over, but measures like these make a huge difference in our bid to protect children from all forms of abuse.