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10 March 2005

EXEC FAILS TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM NET THREAT

Responding to the publication of the Scottish Parliament's Justice 1 Committee's report on the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Bill, SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson backed the findings, and called on the Executive to act now on its proposals.

Mr Stevenson said:

"The Executive have failed to understand the nature of the threats posed by the Internet for children.

"Not only that but the Executive's consultation on the issue even failed to ensure that the National High Tech Crime Unit was involved in the consultation on the Bill. This is despite the fact that they are the acknowledged experts in Scotland in this area

"In failing to criminalise the 'grooming' behaviour of paedophiles, the Executive have missed their best opportunity of tackling an odious crime in Scotland. By comparison the English offence of "Arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence" is regarded by the police as a valuable addition to their armoury. We should have a similar offence here if we are to be seriously committed to tackling this horrific problem.

"This is a missed opportunity for the Executive. As the Committee says, "the Bill will only make a marginal difference in tackling the threat posed to children by paedophiles". In particular, by excluding 16 and 17 year olds from the new offences created the Executive's Bill leaves a potentially dangerous gaping loophole in the law. But this is just one example of the Executive's failure to tighten these laws.

"For example, people who protect children through the provision of sex education and sexual health information may be caught by this Bill's provisions due to the poor drafting of the proposals.

"Scotland's children deserve the most comprehensive protection possible from abuse. Without further work this Bill will be a missed opportunity for the Executive."

Stewart Stevenson
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