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The long-awaited online grooming law will finally be brought into force from April 3. The new offence of sexual communication will see adult groomers facing up to two years in prison and being automatically placed on the sex offenders register.

 


Covering both online and offline communication, including contact through social media, email and letters, it is hoped the new law will in Justice Secretary, Liz Truss’ words “tackle the early stages of grooming”. 

She goes on to say that “any sexual communication with a child” could see a perpetrator behind bars. 

The new law pertains to section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015, making it a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over to intentionally communicate with a child under 16, where there is a sexual purpose and the communication is sexual or intended to evoke a sexual response from the child. 

There are a range of offences already available for criminal justice agencies to deal with sexual communication, but most do not result in an automatic registration on the sex offender register. 

The delay in introducing the new legislation, which was initially created two years ago, has met with considerable criticism. 

The NSPCC have been vocal in their campaigning for bringing forward the changes to the law. It reports that the number of adults meeting children after grooming them has more than tripled in five years, but police have been limited in their powers to arrest them. 



It is hoped the new law will go some way to help tackle the rise in cases of child sexual grooming and give social workers and partner agencies a bit more confidence in the criminal justice system to protect vulnerable young people. 
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