Last month we looked at the recommendation from IICSA’s interim report that the UK government ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (‘the Lanzarote Convention’). This week the Home Office has confirmed ratification on 20 June and the convention will come into force on 1 October 2018.
The purposes of the convention are to:
- Prevent and combat sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children
- Protect the rights of child victims of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse; and
- Promote national and international co-operation against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
There are requirements of parties to ensure their states have preventative measures including the screening, recruitment and training of people working in contact with children, making children aware of the risks and teaching them to protect themselves, as well as monitoring measures for offenders and potential offenders. There is a requirement to establish programmes to support victims, to encourage people to report suspected sexual exploitation and abuse and to establish telephone and internet helplines for children.
In terms of substantive criminal law, the convention imposes obligations to criminalise, prosecute and punish multiple aspects of child sexual abuse and exploitation including the corruption and solicitation of children for sexual purposes. It also requires the signatory states to promote the appropriate policies for national and international co-operation against such crimes.
Ratification means that domestic legislation must comply with the principles of the convention. The government has also indicated that it will provide the National Crime Agency with increased resources to tackle child sexual exploitation in the UK. A further £20 million has been committed over the spending review period to this end.
The news is welcome and it is to be hoped that any supplemental legislation that needs to be passed to ensure complete compliance will receive a purposive and reasoned passage through parliament.
Authored by Sarah Firth, an associate with BLM