Cheadle constituency MP, Mark Hunter is lending his support to an NSPCC campaign to make it a crime for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.
Mark Hunter is backing the charity's Flaw in the Law campaign, which is calling on the Government to introduce a new offence so that it is always illegal for an adult to intentionally send a sexual message to a child. The campaign is seeking an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill, which is soon due to receive its Second Reading in the Commons.
The law in this area hasn't kept up with the way that abusers are using the internet to facilitate the abuse of children and the NSPCC is concerned that there is inadequate protection for children from online abuse. Existing laws are fragmented and sex offenders are able to, and often do, exploit the loopholes. Sex abusers can often get away with effectively 'fishing' for child victims on social networks, mobile apps, chat rooms, and in online gaming environments. The law only covers situations where it can be proved that the adult intends to meet a child. However, increasingly abusers online have no intention to meet a child and abuse them physically, meaning this legislation doesn't cover online grooming.
The NSPCC believes the new law would make it easier for police to step in earlier in the grooming process, before abuse escalates.
The NSPCC's campaign comes as ChildLine, a service run by the NSPCC, saw a 168% increase in the number of children counselled about online sexual abuse last year.
Mark Hunter said:
"Given the rise in online child abuse, it is concerning that the current law is unable to adequately protect children. I urge the Government to listen to the NSPCC's concerns and to create a new offence through the Serious Crime Bill so that it is always illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child".
Bernadette Oxley, regional head of service in the North West, said: "We are very grateful to Mark Hunter for supporting the Flaw in the Law campaign. We want legislation to keep up with technology and offender behaviour in order to properly protect children. We shouldn't have to wait for an offender to meet a child before the law steps in. Without clarity in the law, vital opportunities to stop abusers grooming young people online are being missed and in many cases the police are powerless to act."
"The Serious Crime Bill now being debated in Parliament provides a timely opportunity to introduce a new offence to better protect children online and we hope MPs and the public will back the campaign calling on the Government to do this."
People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at www.nspcc.org.uk/flaw.