Victory for NSPCC’s #FlawintheLaw campaign for anti-grooming laws
Tougher legislation to protect children online comes into force today
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.
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.
Both Gwent and North Wales Police saw a fall in the number of recorded offences for meeting a child following sexual grooming.
The NSPCC pressured the UK Government to urgently enact the anti-grooming law, and Justice Secretary Liz Truss has finally listened.
From today (3 April) online grooming is a crime in England and Wales, meaning police will be able to arrest anyone who sends a sexual message to a child, and intervene before physical abuse takes place.
Des Mannion, Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, 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.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Home Office figures as follows:
Total across Wales
Dyfed Powys Police: 3
North Wales Police: 9
South Wales Police: 3
Gwent Police: 8
Dyfed Powys Police: 25
North Wales Police: 3
South Wales Police: 14
Gwent Police: 2
Flaw in the Law
The Serious Crime Act (2015) received Royal Assent on 1 March 2015. Section 67 makes it an offence in England and Wales for anyone over 18 to communicate with a child under 16 for sexual gratification. It comes into force on 03/04/17.
More than 1,537 offences for indecently communicating with a child have already been recorded in Scotland, where the law is in force.
Recorded offences in Scotland over the last six years: Figures obtained by the NSPCC from Police Scotland:
Communicating indecently (younger child
Communicating indecently (older child)
In Northern Ireland the Justice Act 2015 makes it illegal to have any sexual communication with a child, which has been in force since February 2016.
The NSPCC campaign Flaw in the Law saw more than 50,000 people sign our petition to fix the loophole in the law. For more information please visit: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/fighting-for-childhood/campaigns/flaw-law/
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