A BLOG POST BY ALICE MACEK - ECPAT UK For nearly 20 years ECPAT UK has been campaigning to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including the sexual exploitation of children overseas by British offenders. Almost as a negative consequence of the robust child protection frameworks in the UK, those seeking to abuse and exploit children often travel abroad in order to access vulnerable children to abuse. There are regularly stories in the press about British offenders being arrested in countries all across the world, such as Albania, Romania, Cambodia, Colombia. More must be done to protect every child everywhere from such abuse; the UK has a responsibility to prevent Britons from committing such unacceptable crimes.
Last week, ECPAT UK published our latest report ‘Off the Radar – Protecting Children from British Sex Offenders who Travel’ which provides an overview of the current UK policy framework to deal with travelling sex offenders, the institutions that are particularly vulnerable as targets and the practical response to travelling sex offenders by UK agencies, including the police and the prosecution service. The report makes recommendations upon which the UK must act in order to prevent the sexual abuse of children both at home and abroad, including calling the immediate closure of the ‘three day loophole’ which currently allows registered sex offenders to travel abroad for up to 3 days without informing the authorities of their intent to do so. This puts children at risk in countries such as Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, which can be easily visited from the UK in under three days.
ECPAT UK is pleased to note that during Prime Minister’s Questions on 16th February, in the House of Commons, David Cameron announced his intention to close the 3-day loophole, stating “We will ... use the opportunity to close some loopholes in the sex offenders register. For instance, we will make it compulsory for sex offenders to report to the authorities before any travel.”
While ECPAT UK welcomes this commitment, back in 2008 the then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith gave a similar statement, but no action was taken. ECPAT UK will therefore be closely monitoring the Government to ensure that they fulfill their commitment to close the 3-day loophole in order to better protect children from British travelling sex offenders.