Government accepts MPs’ call for change to child exploitation law

February 24, 2015

Houses of ParliamentEmma and a group of cross-party MPs have successfully convinced the Government to change the law on child exploitation, to prevent sexually exploited children from being blamed for the crimes committed against them.

Labour supported an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill tabled by the Labour MP Ann Coffey to remove references to “child prostitution” from existing laws, and instead refer to “child sexual exploitation”.

The MPs who signed the amendment agreed that the term “child prostitute” suggested sexually exploited children were somehow responsible for their own abuse, or even be regarded as criminals. They agreed that the law should be clear that such children are victims of abuse and should not be criminalised.

The amendments also change the Street Offences Act 1959, which created the offence of “loitering or soliciting for prostitution”. Currently the law applies to any person over the age of 10 – MPs want this changed to 18.

The Government accepted the case for a change in the law, and tabled amendments of its own with the same effect as those supported by Emma.

The amendments must be agreed by the House of Lords before they become law, but with support from all major parties it is likely that the changes will pass.

Emma also supported an amendment tabled by the Labour MP John Mann, that would have amended the Official Secrets Act to make it easier for people with information about historic child abuse to make it public. This amendment was not supported, because the Government argued that the Act was not a barrier to disclosing such information.

Emma strongly supports toughening up existing laws on child sexual exploitation. Last year she backed amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill to make it easier to prosecute individuals who groom children. These amendments were passed and are now law.

Emma said:

“I am pleased that the Government has accepted these amendments. If we want to put a stop to child sexual exploitation we need to deal with the poisonous attitude that blames children for their own abuse. These changes are necessary because it makes it clear that there is only one person to blame for child sex abuse, and that is the abuser.

“I want to congratulate Ann Coffey for her hard work getting these amendments accepted, and all the MPs who supported this change. This is an important step in putting an end to the evil of child sex abuse.”

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