Government accused of watering down sentences for paedophiles

The government is watering down proposed tough sentences for
adults who sexually exploit children, it has been claimed,
writes Rachel Downey.

Speaking at a London conference supported by Community Care and
several major children’s charities, independent researcher Sara
Swann warned that proposals in the review of sexual offences to
introduce tough sentences, including life imprisonment for buying
the sexual services of a child aged under 13, may not be made

The consultation document on reforming the law also recommended
a 10-year sentence for sexually exploiting children aged between 13
and 16, and five years for those between 16 and 18. The
consultation ended in March and campaigners are awaiting a response
from ministers.

Swann outlined the findings of her evaluation of the
implementation of the government’s guidance on child
prostitution which was issued in May 2000. The guidance places a
duty on area child protection committees (ACPCs) to find out the
level of child prostitution in their area and draw up a protocol to
deal with it.

Just over two thirds of ACPCs – 111 out of 146 – said they had a
protocol or draft in place; 27 said they had none; and 8 were did
not know. Only three ACPCs out of 50 researched in detail said they
had made any progress on the dual aims of protecting children
involved and prosecuting the exploiters. They pointed to the lack
of police targets, a lack of monitoring, and a lack of focus on the
adults who commercially exploit children.

Representatives from leading children’s charities, which
organised the event, pointed out that young people involved in
prostitution often refused to engage with statutory agencies so
voluntary organisations were essential. But without new ringfenced
resources, they could not sustain this work and smaller agencies
working with young people living on the streets were in dire
financial straights.

But David Holmes, head of the children’s safeguards unit
at the department of health, said the issue would not be solved by
new systems of funding, and the children involved should be
provided for via social services funds.

* The conference Hidden Children, was run by the Somewhere Safe
consortium comprised of the NSPCC, Children’s Society, NCH and







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