Call to change child grooming laws
A children's charity is calling for a change in the law to help better protect children from being targeted by predatory sex offenders.
A report published by Barnado's and Labour MP Sarah Champion urged the Government to close a "legal loophole" preventing police from taking quicker action when they suspect a child is being groomed for sex.
Under current legislation someone must make contact with a child at least twice before a meeting takes place, with the intention of abusing them, in order to be arrested for 'meeting a child following sexual grooming'.
But the charity is demanding that police should only need to prove one incidence of contact if there is also a clear intention to meet and abuse the child.
It is one of a number of recommendations made following the inquiry, which tested the effectiveness of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
They include giving specialist training to judges and lawyers involved in child sexual exploitation cases.
Puja Darbari, Barnardo's UK director of strategy, said: " It is essential that we have strong legislation in place to tackle the grooming of children for sexual exploitation.
"We must ensure that the police and other authorities have all the necessary tools at their disposal to keep vulnerable children safe.
"Barnardo's worked with nearly 2,000 sexually exploited children last year and we see first-hand the devastating impact these crimes can have.
"It is to be hoped that by acting on the recommendations outlined in this report we can create a system that puts the welfare of sexually exploited children at its very heart."
Other recommends included giving more powers to Local Safeguarding Children's Boards, providing better information to jurors about the myths and stereotypes of child sexual exploitation and for the term "child prostitution" to be removed from legislation.
It also called for changes to the way children learn about sexual exploitation in schools, with more focus on prevention.
Ms Champion, MP for Rotherham, said the report "shone a light on child sexual exploitation".
She said: "We wanted to know what we as a society are doing right and where we are failing those who fall victim to this terrible crime.
"We have set out a number of legislative suggestions that we believe will improve the way child sexual exploitation is tackled in this country.
"I implore the Government and other relevant authorities to look closely at our recommendations."