One of the major issues on the current conservative feminist agenda has to be the safety of children. It’s not that it is not of interest to all, but more that traditionally this has always been an area championed best by political women in society. And with the social changes brought about by the fast-paced free-wheeling digital age, never before have young people been so exposed to bad adults of both sexes. So hence the current priority.
This year there were nearly 19,000 sexual crimes against children and at least 16,500 are apparently at risk of child sexual exploitation.
So how do we arise to effective action when faced with these numbers? Currently under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 there is already provision to enforce the Risk of Sexual Harm Order against someone who is a danger to children. However, as it stands today, the Police can only move in on someone and remove them from the scene if they have already been charged with two contact offences. While they may well have been sufficient in the past when children were cosseted up at home behind their mothers and fathers, rarely to go out, things have changed. With stranger danger taking on modern significance, this has left a loophole to benefit new offenders and grooming gangs. As all police will tell you, `if you want us take action we do need the laws to allow us to do it’.
Hence Nicola Blackwood MP’s challenge to amend the Antisocial Behaviour Bill. The aim is to replace the current children’s civil prevention orders in the Sex Offences Act with a simple Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Order which removes these evidential preconditions.
However, while it will make it easier for the authorities to enforce, the downside is crystal clear. Any woman with a grudge (or man for that matter) could cause untold mischief, as in the case of Vicky Pryce who, while she had a valid case for proceedings, was prepared to risk her whole career, family and undergo a jail term just to get back at her ex. So abuse of the system i.e. people wrongly accusing a partner out of malice could be a risk of the new conditions. However, in practice, it won’t be a simple call. It is unlikely to be enforced without strong court-worthy evidence that a boy or girl is definitely in need of protection and from one particular adult.
Overall, therefore, this change can only be a good thing. And undoubtedly the care and protection of vulnerable children must be at the forefront of policies. A petition in support of this new bill has so far been backed by the Police themselves, lawyers, the NSPCC, The Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, ECPAT, Save the Children, Action for Children, and my own charity, Act Against Bullying. So to help bring this about please follow this link.
Ultimately, like the case for FGM where, despite criminalisation here 28 years ago, no successful prosecution has yet been brought in the UK, legal redress is not always the prime answer to safety issues. But there is no doubt it is certainly a good place to start.