New laws governing sex offences came into force in May. The
Sexual Offences Act 2003, billed as the most radical reform of sex
offences for more than 100 years, is intended to offer better
protection for children and vulnerable people.
The Act introduces a new “grooming” offence that carries a
10-year maximum jail sentence. This aims to catch adults who meet
and intend to sexually abuse a child after grooming them via the
internet or otherwise. The Act also means sex with children aged 12
or under will be automatically charged as rape, with a maximum
sentence of life.
The Act requires people on the sex offenders’ register to
confirm their details annually, in person, and allows orders to be
made banning individuals convicted of a sex offence against a child
from travelling anywhere in the world.
Clarification is also given on the position of those who advise
children on sexual matters. People who provide advice to children
on sexual health in order to protect their physical safety or
emotional well-being, or to prevent sexually transmitted disease or
pregnancy will be exempt from prosecution for aiding or abetting a
child sex offence.
Christine Atkinson, policy adviser for the NSPCC, said that the
Act represents the most significant package of sex offence
legislation in years.
“For too long child sex offenders have been able to walk away
from their crimes with short and insufficient sentences,” she
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 gained Royal Assent on 20 November
last year. The proposals were developed from the Sex Offences
Review set up by the government in 1999.