Released On 23rd Dec 2014
A new offence of soliciting child sex photos is now being created
The Serious Crime Bill aims to close a current loop hole within the law. The sexual offences legislation contain a raft of measures designed to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. It is already an offence for someone over the age of 18 years to exchange explicit sexual images, either of themselves or of someone else, with a child under the age of 16 years if they do so by text or by downloading from the internet. That would seem to prevent most instances of exploitation of youngsters, particularly those who frequent chat rooms and who unwittingly strike up conversations with adults who then ask for sexually explicit photos.
However, the current law is framed in such a way that currently there is no prohibition against somebody merely requesting sexually explicit photos. Often this occurs during the process of grooming when an adult paedophile latches onto a child during a chat room or mobile phone conversation. The adult initially presents as a caring and responsible individual, or perhaps a youngster himself and over time manages to persuade the child victim to engage in more and more in sexual conversation. Finally the child victim is asked to take photographs of herself and send these to the adult. Currently the mere soliciting of such images is not illegal.
In the past, the police have looked at other legislation to try and curtail this activity. However, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 meant that prosecutors had to prove that an adult had incited a child to commit sexual activity. Incitement was difficult to prove if a request was made just for a photo and this lead to very few successful prosecutions.
However, the Government has recently unveiled a new criminal offence of sexual communication with a child. The new law will prevent adults from seeking or requesting explicit photographs from children either online or on mobile phones.
The new offence will tackle three areas of concern that commonly arise in chat rooms and during mobile phone conversations involving paedophiles and children. Thus it will become illegal for anyone over the age of 18 to:-
- Talk about sex;
- Send sexually explicit text messages;
- Invite sexual imagery including sexually explicit photographs; if the recipient is under the age of 16 years old.
At the moment it is unclear whether a defence will arise if the adult alleges that he thought the child was over the age of 18. Often people who go to chat rooms will masquerade as adults when in fact they are children and this may yet provide a “get out of jail free card”.
If convictions do follow then sexual communication with a child will carry a sentence of up to two years in prison.
At robsonshaw, we specialise in gaining compensation on a no win no fee basis for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.
If you would like a free, confidential and no obligation discussion about any issues that have arisen in this article, or any aspect of sexual abuse or exploitation then please call partner Samantha Robson from your local number or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org