Tough new laws that make it a criminal offence for an adult to send sexually explicit messages to a child come into effect on Monday.
The offence, part of an update to existing laws to include text messages and online communications, is aimed at tackling abuse in its early stages.
Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, recently announced the implementation of a new offence of sexual communication with a child, providing greater protection to children and young people, and harsher penalties for adults who flout the law.
Perpetrators now face up to two years in prison and will be placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register automatically.
Currently, text-based sexual communications are not a criminal offence unless combined with an attempt to meet a child. The act of taking, possessing or circulating or exchanging indecent images of children is already a crime.
“In a world of mobile phones and social media, our children are ever more vulnerable to those who prey on their innocence and exploit their trust,” said Ms Truss.
“This new offence will help us to tackle the early stages of grooming and nip in the bud those targeting children online or through text messages.
“My message is clear: any sexual communication with a child could see you behind bars.”
Under s.67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, it will be a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or older to intentionally communicate with a child under 16 where the communication is sexual.
The act was passed by parliament after the NSPCC campaigned for its introduction. The charity raised concerns last month that, despite being enacted in 2015, the law was still not being enforced, prompting the Justice Secretary to take action.
According to a report published by the Home Office earlier this year, there was a 19 per cent increase in the number of offenders convicted of child sexual abuse-related offences in 2016.
How can our Personal Injury Lawyers help?
For those who have suffered abuse, revealing to a parent, let alone a solicitor, the details of what has happened can be unbearable – and sometimes enough to persuade them not to report the matter.
There is also a misconception that there is little point in reporting abuse that took place many years ago.
However, the courts are there to ensure victims obtain the justice to which they are entitled – and at Gotelee, our specialist team of lawyers offer sensitive care and expert guidance.
We are a proud member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, boasting a team of experts, including doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and specialist barristers.