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Children will be better protected from sexual predators under plans being brought forward by the Home Secretary.

Source: Home Office published on this site Wednesday 21 February 2024 by Jill Powell

There will be a legal requirement for anyone in regulated activity relating to children in England, including teachers or healthcare professionals, to report it if they know a child is being sexually abused.

Those who fail to report child sexual abuse they are aware of, falling short of their legal duties, face being barred from working with young people. 

Anyone who actively protects child sexual abusers – by intentionally blocking others from reporting or covering up the crime – could go to prison for 7 years. 

By making mandatory reporting a legal requirement, the government is delivering on a key recommendation in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report to protect children from harm and make sure authorities never again turn a blind eye to this kind of devastating crime.

In a move to further protect people from sexual predators, the police are being given greater powers to stop registered sex offenders from changing their name if they think they still pose a risk to their communities.

This will mean those who commit these despicable crimes face the full force of the law and are managed under tough measures, preventing them from offending again.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said:

There is no excuse for turning a blind eye to a child’s pain.

Having listened to the voices of victims and survivors and reviewed the work of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, we are working at pace to get a mandatory reporting duty for child sexual abuse onto the statute book.

We’re also going further, equipping the police with more powers to prevent those who have committed abhorrent sexual crimes in the past from evading the police by changing their name.

We will continue to use all levers at our disposal to tackle this horrific crime and keep women and children safe.

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding Laura Farris said:

This government has introduced robust legislation for protecting children. But we know children were failed in the past, and that’s why we commissioned the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

By bringing into force a mandatory duty to report child sexual abuse – the inquiry’s principal recommendation – we are sending a clear message that children will never be let down whether in schools, sports settings or any supervised environment.

As someone who worked on the Inquiry before coming into politics this is personal to me. We will continue to support the police in the toughest crack down on anyone who poses a risk to children.

Gabrielle Shaw, Chief Executive for The National Association for People Abused in Childhood said:

NAPAC welcomes this important measure by the government that will improve safeguarding of children and increase accountability amongst those who have a duty of care.

The introduction of mandatory reporting is a big step in the right direction, which must be implemented alongside an approach that prioritises the wellbeing of the child and ensures they have access to ongoing, specialist support. This will require investment in training requirements, wider supporting structures and effective tracking and review.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for the Management of Violent and Sexual Offenders, Assistant Chief Constable Jonny Blackwell, said:

Managing the potential risk posed by registered sexual offenders within the community is a complex area of work for police and we work closely with partners as part of a multi-agency approach to manage these offenders every day.

UK policing has some of the most advanced and stringent tools in the world to manage registered sex offenders, however we will always seek innovative ways to continue to keep up with the changing world we work in.

Any new restrictions which enable us to more effectively manage the risk posed by offenders to the public are welcome.

Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, Professor Alexis Jay OBE said:

I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement that measures to introduce mandatory reporting will be included in the Criminal Justice Bill. I look forward to working with the Home Secretary on the detail of this as the bill progresses.

Under the proposed changes, police will be able to issue a notice to sex offenders who continue to spark concern blocking them from changing or attempting to change their name on official documents such as passports and driving licences without their approval.

Today’s announcement builds on the UK’s existing laws to manage sex offenders, which are among the toughest in the world.

The government is also investing in a range of work to strengthen law enforcement capacity and capability to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation. This includes:

£6.5 million this year for the Tackling Organised Exploitation programme (TOEX), which brings together local, regional and national data to ensure police can effectively uncover and prosecute exploitation

£1.9 million in the new Child Sexual Exploitation Police Taskforce, which is providing practical, expert, on the ground support for forces with a particular focus on group-based child sexual exploitation, including grooming gangs

The new measures will be introduced as amendments at report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill in the House of Commons and will apply in England and Wales.

Child sexual abuse in 2022/23: Trends in official data published February 2024

Source: Centre of expertise on child sexual abuse published on this website Tuesday 20 February 2024 by Jill Powell

The new Trends in official data report collates the latest data across local authorities, policing, criminal justice and sexual assault referral centres to explore how child sexual abuse is being identified and responded to in England and Wales.

 The latest report finds that children are the victims in 40% of all sexual offences – including rape and sexual assault – yet make up just 20% of the population in England & Wales.

2022/23 analysis by the CSA Centre highlights that whilst there have been small improvements, the level of child sexual abuse identified by official agencies remains broadly similar to the previous year and some elements of the response, such as numbers of children placed on child protection plans, appears to be getting worse.

Cowards who kill their partners with sexual violence will face longer behind bars as the government continues to clamp down on domestic abuse against women.

Source: Ministry of Justice published on this website Friday 16 February 2024 by Jill Powell

A new statutory aggravating factor will be brought in for offenders who cause death through abusive, degrading or dangerous sexual behaviour – or so-called ‘rough sex’ – meaning killers are handed down tougher sentences than ever before.

The measure, announced 14 February 2024, builds upon action taken in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 to clarify in law that there is no such thing as the ‘rough sex defence’, and comes as the government publishes its latest Rape Review progress report.

These figures reveal that more vile rapists are paying for their crimes as adult rape prosecutions are approaching the highest levels seen at any point since 2014 showing the government’s efforts are working.

To ensure these efforts don’t let up, the government has also appointed leading academic Professor Katrin Hohl as the new Independent Advisor to the Rape Review.

Having led a ground-breaking scheme to overhaul the way in which police forces investigate rape – Operation Soteria – Professor Hohl also carried out one of the largest ever surveys of victims to better understand how they can be supported.

To ensure all victims know the support available to them, the government has also launched a Victims’ Code campaign, to raise awareness of the rights everyone can expect to receive as a victim of crime.

Through the Victims and Prisoners Bill, police, prosecutors and prison and probation workers will also have a new Code Awareness Duty to make sure victims know their rights - including the right to be referred to a support service, receive updates on their case and the right to make a victim personal statement.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said:

“This government is on the side of victims, who should be supported throughout their journey through the criminal justice system, and our new Victims’ Code campaign sets out exactly what they can expect every step of the way. But we must also hold offenders to account. This new aggravating factor send a clear message that killers who threaten the safety of women can expect to feel the full force of the law.”

The campaign was developed hand-in-hand with criminal justice agencies and victim support organisations, and materials demonstrating that the Victims’ Code is there for every victim, whatever the crime, are being cascaded across England and Wales.

This builds on work to make sure victims get the justice they deserve, and offenders pay for their crimes, including making rapists and serious sexual offenders serve their full custodial term in prison and to widening the use of whole life orders for the worst offenders.

Further to this, pioneering CPS areas, police forces, and leading academics developed new National Operating Models for the investigation of rape and serious sexual offences through Operation Soteria. This sees police and prosecutors working more closely together to build stronger cases.

All police forces and prosecutors in England and Wales are now 6 months into implementation, with the number of cases assigned a charge in the latest quarter being over 25 per cent higher than the same period in the previous year.

This support is crucial, especially for victims of rape – with around 60 per cent of investigations closing because the victim did not support -or withdrew support from- police action.  

The government is also continuing to bolster support services, quadrupling victims funding by 2024/25, up from £41 million in 2009/10, and using ringfenced funding to increase the number of Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse Advisors by 300 to over 1,000 – a 43% increase by 2024/5.  

Government has published guidance on mobile phone use in schools and updated Behaviour in Schools Guidance

Source: Department for Education published on this website Monday 19 February 2024 by Jill Powell

Mobile phones are set to be prohibited in schools across England as part of the government’s plan to minimise disruption and improve behaviour in classrooms. 

New guidance issued Monday 19 February backs head teachers in prohibiting the use of mobile phones throughout the school day, including at break times.  

Many schools around the country are already prohibiting mobile phone use with great results. This guidance will ensure there is a consistent approach across all schools. 

By the age of 12, 97% of children have their own mobile phone, according to Ofcom. Using mobile phones in schools can lead to online bullying, distraction and classroom disruption which, in turn, can lead to lost learning time.  

Last year, Unesco called for smartphones to be banned from schools as evidence showed it was linked to reduced educational performance and that excessive screen time had a negative impact on children’s wellbeing. 

Schools will be supported to prohibit mobile phone use with examples of different approaches including banning phones from the school premises, handing in phones on arrival at school, and keeping phones securely locked away at school.  

The guidance will respond to concerns from parents about mobile phones, with the latest data from ParentKind’s National Parent Survey, revealing that 44% of parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices, rising to 50% of parents of secondary school children. 

Driving high expectations of behaviour is a priority for the government, building on our £10 million investment in behaviour hubs which will support up to 700 schools over three years, as well as existing behaviour in schools guidance

We are making long-term decisions to ensure all pupils have world class education. This guidance builds on that work which has delivered 89% of schools rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, up from just 68% in 2010.  

Our plan is working with school standards rising across the board. England has catapulted up the international rankings for academic attainment through our multimillion-pound maths and English hubs programme and phonics screening check. We are now one of the top performing countries in the Western world for maths and reading and the government will continue to build on this progress by delivering crucial reforms including by creating the Advanced British Standard.  

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: 

“Schools are places for children to learn and mobile phones are, at a minimum, an unwanted distraction in the classroom. We are giving our hard-working teachers the tools to take action to help improve behaviour and to allow them to do what they do best – teach.” 

Lead Behaviour advisor to the Department Tom Bennett said: 

Mobile phones may be ubiquitous, but we have a strong and growing understanding of how damaging they can be for a child’s social and educational development. And it’s the least advantaged who suffer most. Many schools already have some kind of policy on phones, but this guidance provides a clear steer for everyone, including parents, about what’s right and what’s not for the wellbeing of the child.  

Heads can know that they’ll be backed in their attempt to build safe and nurturing cultures, and they’ll find advice about how to make schools a phone-free environment.  And when that happens, everyone wins.

Chief executive of Parentkind Jason Elsom said: 

“The government is right to be taking decisive action on the use of phones in schools with our research indicating that 44% of parents are concerned about the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices and more than three quarters of parents support a ban on phones in schools. This is the number one concern for parents, according to the National Parent Survey.  Society has sleepwalked into a position where children are addicted to harmful ‘electronic drugs’, and have no-escape from their digital dealers, not even within the relatively safe grounds of their schools.”

The latest government data finds around a third (29%) of secondary school pupils reported mobile phones being used when they were not supposed to in most, or all, lessons.  

Schools have seen success in prohibiting mobile phones through tactics such as introducing lockers with charging points for students to ensure they don’t come into classrooms.  

One school referenced in the guidance introduced this change and saw a positive impact overnight and within one year the whole culture of the school had changed. Without access to mobile phones, pupils have the headspace and calm environment to learn, and staff have the quiet and focus to teach in. 

The move will bring England in line with steps taken by other countries who have restricted mobile phone use including France, Italy and Portugal.  

Our behaviour hubs enable schools across the country with exemplary positive behaviour cultures to work closely with schools that want and need to turn their behaviour around. 

Alongside this, we have taken steps to improve behaviour through the appointment of a behavioural taskforce led by DfE’s behaviour tsar Tom Bennett, with the aim of improving behaviour culture and spread good practice across the country.

Behaviour in Schools Guidance has also been updated and published 19 February 2024

Mechanic who had secret life running child abuse sites on the dark web is jailed

Source: National Crime Agency (NCA) published on this website Thursday 15 February 2024 by Jill Powell

A mechanic from Cheshire who created and moderated sites dedicated to child sexual abuse on the dark web has been jailed for 16 years.

Nathan Bake, 28, is one of three UK-based moderators of a site called ‘The Annex’ who were identified by the National Crime Agency, as part of an investigation targeting those behind the site.

The Annex, which is no longer active, had around 90,000 global members who used it to share and discuss some of the most extreme kinds of abuse material, involving ‘hurtcore’ and the sexual abuse of babies and toddlers.

As the head moderator, Bake was second in command of the entire site, which was run by an American man, who was sentenced to life in prison in the US in January.

Bake was responsible for managing around 30 staff members, and worked with them to enforce the site’s rules and ensure it continued to run smoothly.

Two such staff members were Kabir Garg, a psychiatrist from London, and a 48-year-old man from Eastbourne, who will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court next week. The pair were also moderators and sat just below Bake in the site’s hierarchy. Garg was jailed for six years last year.

New users of The Annex would first be held in the ‘gateway’ where they would have to impress and gain the trust of the site’s administrators by posting a certain amount of abuse material, before being granted access to the wider site.

Bake and the other moderators would advise members on techniques to evade law enforcement detection, and encourage them to keep the site busy by sharing links to child abuse content.

In one post recovered by the NCA, Bake said: ‘Come on people, Show us what you’ve got for HAPPY HOUR. Show us the boys and girls that turn you on the most’.

NCA officers arrested Bake at his home in Runcorn in November 2022 and seized a number of devices, including laptops, phones, USBs and external hard drives. One laptop was running, with the TOR dark web browser in use and indecent images of children on the screen.

Officers gathered evidence from his devices which proved Bake was co-creator of a second child abuse site, and was also the head moderator of a directory-style page, which contained links to further abuse forums on the dark web.

Hundreds of thousands of indecent images and videos of children were also recovered from his storage devices, as was 576 page paedophile manual.

Bake pleaded guilty to 12 counts in November 2023, including facilitating the sexual exploitation of children, participating in an organised crime group, possession of a paedophile manual, and distributing and making indecent images of children.

He was sentenced today at Chester Crown Court to 16 years imprisonment, placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life and given a lifetime Sexual Harm Prevention Order.

The NCA worked with a number of international partners to target this group of moderators. A further 14 men have been charged in the US for their roles in helping to run The Annex, with eight receiving sentences of between six and 28 years.

Daniel Waywell, Senior Investigating Officer from the National Crime Agency, said: “Bake was one of a select number of individuals that played a vital role in ensuring The Annex continued to run and was able to facilitate child sexual abuse on a global scale.

“He started as a user himself, but worked his way up the rankings by actively sharing a substantial amount of material and encouraging the discussion of horrific abuse, thus gaining the trust of other moderators.

“Such was his dedication to this global community of paedophiles that he also committed his time, on top of his day job as a mechanic, to running and setting up other dark web sites that assisted their offending.

“Sites such as these directly and openly encourage users to commit sexual offences against children, and those who run or access them assume they are protected by anonymity.

“However, the NCA has the determination and technical capability to target those who use the dark web to endanger and harm children. We work closely with international partners to ensure offenders are identified and brought to justice.”