This week I was pleased to attend and support the launch of a report by my colleague Sarah Champion MP, supported by Barnardos, on tackling child sexual exploitation.
The report was a result of a backbench parliamentary inquiry which saw a cross-party panel of MPs and Peers hear evidence from young victims as well as representatives from the police, legal profession, local authorities and the voluntary sector.
The inquiry tested the effectiveness of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and has made a wide range of legislative and policy recommendations, including:
- Strengthening Child Abduction Warning Notices to make it a criminal offence to breach the conditions of the notice
- Amending the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to remove the need for a second contact in the offence of ‘meeting a child following sexual grooming’
- More powers to be given to Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards
- Removal of the term ‘child prostitution’ from legislation
- Changes to the way children learn about sexual exploitation in schools with a focus on prevention
- Specialist training to be given to all judges and lawyers involved in cases of child sexual exploitation
- Information about the myths and stereotypes about child sexual exploitation to be provided to jurors on relevant cases
I wholeheartedly support the changes outlined in this report. Child sexual exploitation is a crime of the most heinous kind and we should be doing all we can to combat it. I have added my voice to those calling on the Government and other agencies to act on the report’s proposals. Tackling sexual exploitation is one of my top ten local priorities and I will certainly be looking at how I can take the recommendations from the report forward in Oldham East and Saddleworth.