NSPCC launch campaign to make it illegal for adults to send sexual messages to children
As the government is currently in the process of debating the Serious Crimes Bill in Parliament, the NSPCC has launched its Flaw in the Law campaign calling for the bill to make it illegal for adults to send messages containing sexual material to children.
Scotland made it an offence for an adult to knowingly send a sexual communication to a child in 2009.
Although a YouGov poll for the NSPCC revealed that three out of four adults believed that it is already illegal for someone over 18 to send a sexual message to a child under 16, in fact no such specific offence exists.
NSPCC national head of service for Wales, Des Mannion, said: “No adult should be deliberately sending sexual messages to children, but incredibly it is not always illegal. Existing laws are hotch-potch and sex offenders can and do exploit the loopholes.
“The rise of online communication means that children are increasingly being exposed to sexual messages from adults on social networks or through messaging apps, but in many cases the police are powerless to act,” said Mannion.
ChildLine says there is “insufficient protection for children from adults who send sexual messages to them” after it received a “staggering” 168% increase in contact from children concerned with online sexual abuse between 2013 and 2014.
Regional manager for the NSPCC East of England area, Colin Peake, said: “The current law focuses on the moment a child responds to a request for an explicit picture, or by meeting someone who is in essence grooming them. We need to take a step back and make the initial request on the part of the adult illegal. Hopefully we will see action taken in the next couple of months.”