A new strategy to protect children from sexual abuse has been published by home secretary Priti Patel.
New legislation and enhanced technology will be utilised to target offenders, the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy outlines.
The UK’s world-leading Child Abuse Image Database to identify and catch more offenders faster. The Home Office will make it easier for parents and carers to ask the police if someone has a criminal record for child sexual offences as the department commits to a review of Sarah’s Law.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse have told me how they feel let down by the state. I am determined to put this right.
“This first-of-its-kind national Strategy will tackle and respond to all forms of child sexual abuse, relentlessly going after abusers, whilst better protecting victims and survivors.
Crucially, it contains a commitment to collect higher quality data on the characteristics of offenders, so that the government can build a fuller picture of perpetrators, and tackle the abuse that has blighted many towns and cities across our country,” added Ms Patel.
The strategy outlines:
- Introducing stronger sentencing so that serious violent and sexual offenders remain in prison for longer.
- Supporting local areas to improve their response to exploitation through the Home Office-funded Prevention Programme.
- The introduction of the Online Safety Bill to ensure that technology companies are held to account for harmful content on their sites, and do not compromise on children’s safety.
- Improved data that is available on offenders.
- Working with local authorities to understand and respond to threats within their communities.
New Home Office research estimates that the social and economic cost of the crime over the victims’ lifetimes was at least a staggering £10 billion for the victims who experienced child sexual abuse in the year ending March 2019, with the full emotional cost being immeasurable.
The strategy also aims to improve the data that is available on offenders following the publication of the paper on the characteristics of group-based offending which found that it was difficult to draw conclusions about the ethnicity of offenders as existing research is limited and data collection is poor.
The government announced in May that it would publish a paper into group-based child sexual exploitation later that year to better understand the characteristics of this type of offending and safeguard vulnerable children.
However the paper, published in December, highlighted that better analysis on the characteristics of offenders of child sexual exploitation such as ethnicity and other factors are required to ensure the factors and context of offending are understood and confronted.
As a result, the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy will commit to improving our understanding of child sexual abuse - including around ethnicity. This will enable the government to better understand any community and cultural factors relevant to tackling offending – helping to safeguard children from abuse.
Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins said: “Children across the country and beyond, continue to be subjected to horrific sexual abuse which has a devastating impact on their lives.
“The public expects the government to do all it can to prevent child sexual abuse, particularly during this difficult period, and we are delivering on this promise by publishing our Strategy.
“The publication demonstrates that, as a government, we are committed to tackling this crime on all fronts and will leave no stone unturned to prevent and pursue offenders, and will protect children and young people,” she concluded.
Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy