Protect 16 and 17 Year Olds From Grooming and Sexual Exploitation

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It’s every parent’s nightmare, your 16 year old son or daughter is missing. To make matters worse, you discover they’ve met a much older person online. At present, the law and consequently the system is failing vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds by not protecting them from grooming and subsequent sexual exploitation. Despite the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defining a child as anyone under 18 years of age, section 15 in respect of meeting a child following sexual grooming only applies to persons aged under 16, leaving 16 and 17 year olds to fall through a gap in the law. Perpetrators can readily exploit this where, for example, children are 15 (almost 16) when contact beween the perpetrator and child is first made. As soon as children turn 16, the police response currently (because of the gap in the law) is that the child is 16 and the relationship is consensual (where vulnerable children are not able to speak up to the contrary as perpetrator has already groomed them). This is true even where social services/local authority have categorised the child as at high risk of child sexual exploitation. This gap also prevents police issuing a child abduction notice which has proven to be an effective disruption tool to protect children under 16 years old who go missing. This is a significant discrepancy in the law which urgently needs action to protect vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds who also go missing. Please sign this petition for a change in the law.

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Michelle Deenah needs your help with “Victoria Atkins: Protect 16 and 17 Year Olds From Grooming and Sexual Exploitation”. Join Michelle and 134 supporters today.