ECPAT UK has welcomed the conviction of Dorset abuser, David Shepherd, on 13 charges of child sexual abuse in the Philippines. 

The leading children’s rights charity commended local Dorset Police for pursuing the extra-territorial case to its conclusion and helping secure conviction on counts including the rape of a child under 13 and taking indecent photographs of a child. 

ECPAT UK said UK leaders must follow the lead of local investigators and act swiftly to reverse their astonishingly low rates of monitoring, prosecuting and convicting UK offenders who travel abroad and sexually abuse children.

Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 enables the UK to prosecute individuals even when child sexual abuse offences are committed overseas -- a provision that ECPAT UK campaigned to achieve. The Act states that a national or resident of the United Kingdom who commits certain sexual acts which are prohibited by UK law whilst abroad is guilty of that offence in the UK.    

However, according to ECPAT UK, very few cases of transnational child sexual abuse by UK nationals are prosecuted under extra-territorial law. While hundreds of Britons are detained abroad for child sexual abuse – 154 in March 2015 – only two successful UK prosecutions had been achieved as of March 2013. 

Speaking to the Bournemouth Echo, Ryan Mahan, Head of Information & Online Campaigns, ECPAT UK, said: 

“ECPAT UK commends Dorset Police for helping to secure the conviction of David Shepard, especially given the UK’s astonishingly poor record of prosecuting UK citizens who travel abroad to rape and abuse vulnerable children. Despite the fact that we, as an organisation, have monitored hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse overseas by UK nationals, there have been very few convictions under UK extra-territorial law – as few as two in 2013.   

“This case highlights the complexities of transnational child sexual abuse, particularly how offenders exploit technology, collaborate with criminal trafficking networks and target vulnerable children abroad for their own sexual or financial gratification. However, we must never let this undermine our efforts to protect children anywhere offenders from the UK may travel. Our leaders, from the Prime Minister to the National Crime Agency, must do more to demonstrate their commitment to truly protecting children everywhere from these heinous crimes.”