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New offence introduced to prevent grooming

Justice secretary introduces new offence of ‘sexual communication with a child’ whereby offenders face two years in prison

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People who groom children using phones and social media face two years in prison, the government has announced.

The Ministry of Justice has introduced a new offence of ‘sexual communication with a child’. Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss has acted decisively to bring in a new offence of sexual communication with a child to cover a gap in existing legislation and ensure children are protected.

Those found guilty also face being automatically placed on the sex offenders register.

Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “In a world of mobile phones and social media, our children are ever more vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust.

“The best way of protecting our young people from the evils of child abuse is to stop it happening in the first place. This new offence will give courts the powers to jail anyone who sends a sexual communication to a child – and stop the process of grooming before it starts,” she added.

The new offence came into effect on 3 April 2017 and covers both online and offline communication, including through social media, e-mail, and letters. There are a range of offences already available to deal with sexual communication, depending on the circumstances, but many do not automatically attract sex offender registration.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: “The Justice Secretary has done the right thing. This is a victory for the 50,000 people who supported the NSPCC’s Flaw in the Law campaign. It is a victory for common sense. Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK.

“This law will give police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it starts,” Wanless concluded.

 

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