Adults who trawl the internet to ask children to take explicit photos of themselves will face two years in prison, David Cameron has announced today. Speaking at a conference into child abuse he said the new Serious Crime Bill would include the new offence.
The change in the law has come about because of the number of paedophiles who escape punishment because it is not illegal to ask for abusive images. The courts can only punish paedophiles who receive child pornography, or who create the images themselves. This means adults who try but fail to acquire images have not broken current laws.
The new crime will be called sexual communication with a child. It will be passed along with legislation to ban ‘revenge porn’, which is when ex-partners use to photos taken during their relationship to humiliate someone they have broken up with.
Israel recently became the first country in the world to ban the widespread practise. In the past the police were forced to use harassment legislation to stop revenge porn, but convictions were rare. The existing laws also make it hard to have the image taken off websites once they have been posted.
David Cameron told the Daily Mail: “We have seen an increasing and alarming phenomenon of adults grooming children online, encouraging them to send images of themselves over the internet or on mobile phones.”
“There can be no grey areas here. If you ask a child to take their clothes off and send a picture, you are as guilty as if you did that in person.
“So we are changing the law. Just as it is illegal to produce and possess images of child abuse, now we are making it illegal to solicit these images too.
“This law will make it clear – this is a crime, and you will be prosecuted for it.’
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive said: “The rise of online communication means that children are increasingly being exposed to sexual messages from adults, but in many cases the police have been powerless to act.
“The full force of the law can now be immediately brought to bear on anyone who grooms children for abuse online.”
After the law is passed anyone communicating with a child in a sexual manner, or anyone requesting explicit photos can be prosecuted. A national database of child abuse images will also be established to make it easier to find photos and remove them from the internet.