Last week, on 22 January, the Government published the Tackling Child Sexual Abuse strategy. As the first strategy of its kind, it sets out an ambitious blueprint for preventing and tackling all forms of child sexual abuse – whether these crimes take place within the family, in the community or online. In the past, a culture of denial emboldened offenders committing these heinous crimes. This must never happen again.
The Strategy builds on previous work across Government to tackle child sexual abuse. It recognises the scale of the problem, its hidden nature, and the way it continues to evolve, outlining a fresh approach focused on the relentless pursuit of offenders and better protection for victims and survivors.
The recently published paper on group-based child sexual exploitation highlighted that the data collected on offender and victim characteristics is inadequate, and that there is a need to improve the quality and extent of data collected in relation to the modus operandi of offending. The Strategy therefore commits to working with local authorities to understand and respond to threats within their communities, and to collecting higher quality data on offenders so that the government can build a fuller picture on the characteristics of perpetrators and help tackle the abuse that has blighted many towns and cities in England.
In addition, the Strategy outlines the immediate steps we will take to tackle all forms of offending, including:
- Investing in the UK’s world-leading Child Abuse Image Database to identify and catch more offenders quicker, including new tools to speed-up police investigations;
- Committing to a review of Sarah’s Law to make it easier for parents and carers to ask the police if someone has a criminal record for child sexual offences;
- Supporting local areas to improve their response to exploitation through funding for the Home Office-funded Prevention Programme;
- Preventing abuse by raising awareness through communications and engagement with parents and the wider public, as well as providing professionals with skills and resources to intervene early;
- Providing victims and survivors with the support they need to rebuild their lives, ensuring their rights are protected in the criminal justice system and investing to improve support services and embed best practice;
- Working with partners overseas to strengthen child protection systems in countries where children are particularly at risk, and clamping down in individuals who travel abroad to rape and abuse children.
- Using new legislation and enhanced technology to stop offenders in their tracks, including introducing the ground-breaking Online Safety Bill and GCHQ collaborating with the tech industry to identify and develop solutions to crack down on large scale online child sexual abuse;
Protecting children and the most vulnerable in our society is one of the government’s most fundamental and important roles. This Strategy underlines my unwavering determination to crack down on perpetrators, place victims and survivors at the heart of our approach and restore confidence in the criminal justice system’s ability to tackle these repulsive crimes.
The Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy is available on GOV.UK. A copy of the Strategy will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords