Protection from Online Grooming December 2016

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding legal protection from online grooming and the related 'Flaw in the Law' campaign from the NSPCC.

I understand the pressure that young people are under because of social media and I am deeply concerned that online child abuse has reached unprecedented levels and is increasing. The Internet Watch Foundation has recorded a 417% increase in child sexual abuse images since 2013.

It was welcome that following campaigns inside and outside of Parliament, the Government eventually legislated through the Serious Crime Act 2015 to make it a criminal offence for an adult to have a sexual communication with a child for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification.

I recognise the NSPCC's work on this, which was vital to ensuring the law caught up with how modern communications operate. I agree that it is incredibly important that we close any loopholes we can in order to protect children.

I appreciate that the NSPCC are now calling for a start date for the new law and in response to questions in Parliament the Government has said that it is considering its implementation carefully. Enforcement is crucial, and I will continue to follow any developments closely.

Additionally, currently too many children are not learning about the dangers of the online world, or about respect, sex or consent. The Sex Education Forum organisation found that 53% of pupils have not even learnt how to recognise grooming for sexual exploitation. I believe that introducing age-appropriate resilience in relationship education in all schools would be another way to help prevent child abuse.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to make me aware of your views on this issue, I will continue to support efforts to press the Government to address and prevent online child abuse.