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Sexual grooming and UK law

The Home Office has recently stated it would “leave no stone unturned” in its attempt to tackle child sexual grooming in the UK. Official figures recently revealed almost 19,000 children were sexually groomed in England in the past year (2018 to 2019).

What is sexual grooming?

It’s the process used by people with a sexual interest in children, to prepare a child for sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. In most cases, it is very carefully planned and takes place over weeks, months or years – with the ultimate objective to commit a sexual offence. Grooming can occur in person or online, but under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, any form of communication with a child for the purpose of sexually abusing them is grooming.

The rise in online grooming

Under current UK law it is an offence to arrange (or facilitate) a meeting with a child under the age of 16 with the intent of sexually abusing the child, or with the intent of another individual sexually abusing them. It’s also an offence to meet a child following the process of grooming. That said, new technologies such as social media platforms are regularly in the spotlight, with offenders utilising channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to exploit and abuse children. For example, the NSPCC found that sex offenders groomed children on Instagram more frequently than on any other online platform (32% of the 1,317 cases where a method was recorded), closely followed by Facebook (23%) and Snapchat (14%). The NSPCC went further, estimating an average of one online abuse offence against a child was recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales in just over nine months (based on police data from April to June 2019).

Sexual communication with a child

Whether grooming takes place in person or online, the law is clear. In April 2017 sexual communication with a child was made an offence. This means that groomers who target children via SMS messages, emails or social media with the intention of causing a sexual response can receive a maximum sentence of two years in prison and be placed on the sex offenders’ register.

The sex offender’s register was introduced in 1997 and it holds details of all persons convicted, cautioned or released from prison for a sexual offence. Convicted sex offenders must register with the police within three days of conviction, or release from prison, giving their name, address, bank account details and national insurance number among other information. If details change, such as when a registered offender moves house or changes their name, they must disclose this information within three days, whilst they must also inform the police if they wish to travel outside of the UK.

Defending your rights, every step of the way

If you have been accused of sexual grooming or any other sexual offence, it’s critical to seek the best legal advice and representation available. At Noble Solicitors, our Barristers and Advocates have represented many high profile sex crime cases, whilst we have wealth of expertise delivering positive results in this highly complex area of law.

If you or somebody you know has been arrested and needs expert legal representation, call our team today on 07000 81 82 83.

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