With this year’s CSE awareness day falling just weeks before the first anniversary of the introduction of a new offence – sexual communications with a child – Cleveland Police and the force’s Police and Crime Commissioner have reaffirmed their commitment to tackling CSE and safeguarding children and young people.
This year’s CSE awareness day falls on Sunday 18th March, and in April it is a year since anyone found targeting children through mobile phones or social media faces up to two years in prison - and being automatically placed on the sex offenders register.
The offence was introduced to fill a gap in existing legislation aimed at protecting youngsters. So far 11 males aged between 18-39-years-old have been arrested under the new offence.
PCC Barry Coppinger has provided funding for three Schools Liaison Officers whose remit includes teaching children, young people and their parents about online and personal safety among other subjects.
The PCC has also jointly commissioned pioneering research alongside the Big Lottery, examining the motivations and backgrounds of CSE offenders in the North East. The study will inform partnership response to protecting victims in the future and will be published later this month.
Mr Coppinger said: “Protecting and safeguarding children and young people – who are among our most vulnerable residents – is a priority for me. My office has been working with partner agencies to assess and understand any specific provision need locally.
“It is vital that police and professionals continue to work together to raise awareness and understanding of CSE so that all sections of the community can join us in tackling it.”
Detective Chief Inspector Wendy Tinkler from Cleveland Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit added:
“It is a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over to intentionally communicate with a child under 16, where the person acts for a sexual purpose.
“Most young children now have access to computers or own a mobile phone and regularly interact on social media platforms. Unfortunately this opens them up to those who prey on their innocence and trust and who will take opportunities to sexually exploit them.
“Children should be as safe on-line as they are off- line. This offence allows us to intervene at an earlier stage and effectively deal with anybody who sends sexual communication to a child before any sexual activity can occur.
“There are a range of offences available to deal with sexual communication but many do not automatically attract sex offender registration, however this offence does. Upon their release from custody this allows the police and our partner agencies to manage an offender and place restrictions upon them relevant to their offending behaviour. For example they must inform us of their place of residence, what access they have to any child under the age of 18 and all foreign travel.”
DCI Tinkler also appealed to parents to be vigilant and to be aware of what and who their children were engaging with online and to do all they could to keep them safe:
“These offenders are opportunists and will often target hundreds of children in order to receive a response. Be mindful of the images your children share on social media – have you checked their latest profile picture? Make sure that their profiles are secure and be aware of who can view them.”
Below are some useful links on how parents and carers can keep children safe online:
North East, ‘See it, tackle it, Stop it!’ CSE awareness campaign: https://youtu.be/YVwaB4b8XzA
Get Safe Online: https://www.getsafeonline.org/safeguarding-children/
Think You Know: https://www.thinkyouknow.co.uk/parents/
Posted on Monday 19th March 2018