Adults who communicate with children using sexual language could face up to two years in prison and be automatically placed on the sex offenders register, according to a new law announced today.
From 3 April, anyone aged 18 or older who sends a child aged under 16 emails, text messages, letters or other forms of on- or offline communication with sexual intent could be prosecuted.
Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said mobile phones and social media had made children more vulnerable to “those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust”.
“This new offence will help to us tackle the early stages of grooming, and nip in the bud those targeting children online or through text messages,” she said.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless thanked Truss for “doing the right thing”, and said the new law would “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”.
The charity has campaigned for the offence to be introduced since 2014, prompting 50,000 people to sign a petition backing the change in the law.
Wanless added: “It is a victory for common sense. Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK.” The sexual communication charge will be introduced through section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.
Has your child received a sexual message from an adult?
Your child is likely to feel distressed, upset or confused if they’ve received a sexual message. They might even feel guilty and that it’s their fault. It’s a criminal offence for an adult to send a sexual message to a child, so there are lots of things you can do.
By telling you, they might have prevented the situation from becoming more serious. Talk to them about what happened. Did they receive the message from a ‘friend’ or someone they thought was their age?
Call the police to report it, or call the NSPCC helpline for more advice.
Check privacy settings
And make sure they know how to report abuse on websites.
Let them know they can call Childline at any time if they want to talk to someone about what they’ve seen.
Child Sexual Exploitation Is Happening In Warwickshire.
Something’s Not Right is the acclaimed multi agency child sexual exploitation campaign and continues to raise awareness of CSE and offer support in Warwickshire. The campaign encourages people to think about situations they may see or be involved in on a daily basis and if Something’s Not Right seek professional advice and guidance.
For more information about our work, please visit www.safeinwarwickshire.com/cybercrime