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NEW LAW TO STOP ABUSE
NEW police powers to tackle sex abusers have been announced by the Government after a campaign launched following the Bullfinch sex abuse investigation.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood lobbied for law changes in the wake of Operation Bullfinch – the investigation into the grooming and abuse of young and vulnerable girls in Oxford.
And her campaigning, which has been backed by more than 100,000 supporters, has led to the Government announcing new powers to pursue civil court orders against suspected child sex abusers – even if they cannot be prosecuted in a criminal court.
Miss Blackwood yesterday said the move could be used to stop known street groomers mixing with young girls.
She said: “This means that where (police) have evidence but cannot yet prosecute, they can still protect children.
“There are lots of cases when you cannot get a conviction, for different reasons. Maybe the victim is not able to go to court, maybe the evidence is ruled out for technical reasons.
“This will make it easier for police to intervene early to protect children.”
The orders can limit internet use, ban people from being alone with a child, or prevent travel abroad. If someone breaches an order, they can be imprisoned.
There are two different orders – one that can last up to five years for sex convicts and one for up to two years for those believed to pose a risk.
According to the Government, the existing laws are too difficult for police to enforce. In a letter to Miss Blackwood praising her campaign, policing minister Damian Green said the existing powers were “not fit for purpose”.
Currently, they can only be given out if police prove a person has committed two child sex crimes.
After the changes, they will only have to prove a child is at risk. But Miss Blackwood, who put forward the changes as an amendment to the Antisocial Behaviour Bill that is set to be voted through next week, said the orders would not be handed out lightly.
And she said people would be represented legally and have the right to appeal. The Tory MP launched her Childhood Lost campaign in August and so far more than 100,000 people have signed the petition to the Prime Minister.
The Home Office yesterday backed the MP’s campaign. Mr Green, announcing the plans for the new law yesterday, said: “Our proposals support the Childhood Lost campaign to tighten the law on sex offenders and make it easier for police to monitor them.”
Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP for Oxford, also welcomed the move, adding: “This will be an important step in giving UK law enforcement services the best chance to protect the vulnerable.”
Operation Bullfinch saw seven men jailed for a total of 95 years in June after an 18-week trial heard they groomed, drugged, raped, and sold girls for sex in Oxford.
The mother of the unnamed victim known as Girl 3 yesterday said police would still need to identify abusers before they hurt anyone.
She said: “It’s good to know that there will be more powers to restrict those at risk of abusing children, but that does presuppose the police have been able to identify who they are.”
The Childhood Lost campaign also calls for more investment to tackle the threat of child abuse rings.
The petition will be presented to PM David Cameron. Asked about the petition, Mr Cameron said: “Child sexual exploitation is an abhorrent crime which this Government is determined to tackle.”
The Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Order is a reform of the existing Risk of Sexual Harm Order, which the Government said was too hard to enforce. Under the new order:
- Police do not need to prove two so-called contact sex crimes, but instead need to satisfy the court the order is necessary to protect children from serious sexual harm
- Children inside or outside the UK can be protected
- Children aged up to 18 and not just 16 can be protected
- Applications can be made for interim orders so offenders cannot flee the jurisdiction
- Breach of the order could result in up to five years’ imprisonment
- The Government has also put forward its own amendment to create a Sexual Risk Prevention Order which can be used to protect vulnerable adults and mean police only need to prove the order would protect the public from sexual harm rather then “serious” sexual harm
For details on the campaign, visit childhoodlost.co.uk