Halton MP, Derek Twigg, is lending his support to an NSPCC campaign to make it a crime for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.
Derek Twigg is backing the charity’s Flaw in the Law campaign, which is calling on the Government to introduce a new offence so that it is always illegal for an adult to intentionally send a sexual message to a child. The campaign is seeking an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, which is soon due to receive its Second Reading in the Commons.
The law in this area hasn’t kept up with the way that abusers are using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children and the NSPCC is concerned that there is inadequate protection for children from online abuse. Existing laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes. Sex abusers can often get away with effectively ‘fishing’ for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments. The law only covers situations where it can be proved that the adult intends to meet a child. However, increasingly abusers online have no intention to meet a child and abuse them physically, meaning this legislation doesn't cover online grooming.
The NSPCC believes the new law would make it easier for police to step in earlier in the grooming process, before abuse escalates.
The NSPCC’s campaign comes as ChildLine, a service run by the NSPCC, saw a 168% increase in the number of children counselled about online sexual abuse last year.
Derek Twigg said: “Given the alarming rise in online child abuse, it is very concerning that the current law is unable to adequately protect children. I urge the Government to listen to the NSPCC’s concerns and to create a new offence through the Serious Crime Bill so that it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child”.
NSPCC Head of child safety online, Claire Lilley, said: “We are very grateful to Derek Twigg for supporting the Flaw in the Law campaign. We want legislation to keep up with technology and offender behaviour in order to properly protect children We shouldn't have to wait for an offender to meet a child before the law steps in. Without clarity in the law, vital opportunities to stop abusers grooming young people online are being missed and in many cases the police and powerless to act.”
“The Serious Crime Bill now being debated in Parliament provides a timely opportunity to introduce a new offence to better protect children online and we hope MPs and the public will back the campaign calling on the Government to do this.”
People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at www.nspcc.org.uk/flaw and join the debate on social media by following #FlawedLaw.
Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24-hour helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help online at www.childline.org.uk