The persistence of British offenders implicated in, and convicted of, sexual abuse of children abroad raises serious questions over the UK Government’s response to transnational child abuse, leading children’s rights charity ECPAT UK has said on World Tourism Day.   

Recent Government figures, published in Hansard (21 July 2014), show an increase in the numbers of British nationals convicted of sexual offences against children within the EU and outside the EU, as notified to the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Criminal Records Office (ACRO).

Yet ECPAT UK has warned that these figures are only a small percentage of the total number of offences committed, due to a lack of sufficient data monitoring systems and reporting mechanisms.  

  • Between April 2012 and May 2014, the ACPO Criminal Records Office received over 100 notifications concerning convictions for sexual offences against children in 19 EU countries, including 24 for the rape of a minor, 15 for the sexual exploitation of children, 39 for sexual assault of a minor and 40 relating to child abuse images.*

  • Information on convictions of British nationals outside of the EU has only been available since June 2012, with 34 notifications of convictions for sexual offences against children and 8 concerning child abuse images. 

Recent high profile cases involving British nationals during this same period illustrate the scale of the abuse. These include a British police officer, Ian Bower, who was arrested in Cambodia on two separate occasions, and finally convicted in 2012 for sexual abuse of two children aged of 12 and 14 while working as a teacher; a British Airways pilot, Simon Wood, who used his connection to the British Airways charitable activities to gain access to children in orphanages in Kenya; and a financier from Hertfordshire, Michael Eller, who used the internet to direct and broadcast over a live video link sexual abuse of children in the Philippines . 

Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK, speaking on World Tourism Day, said 

“These statistics represent only a minority of abuses against children across the globe. Weakness in laws and reporting systems are resulting in the failure to protect thousands of the most vulnerable children, whose abuses remain unreported and unheard. The UK Government must strengthen its data monitoring systems, reporting mechanisms and joint investigative capacities in regions of high incidence of child sexual exploitation, including East Africa, Southeast Asia and parts of South America. The Government must heed the call of more than 14,000 people to act urgently to prevent the heightened risk of child sexual abuse during the Brazil World Cup.” 

ECPAT UK, together with ECPAT partners across the European Network, has campaigned for the implementation of immediate transnational and in-country measures to protect children from such crimes in high-risk regions around the world. The latest campaign, Don’t Look Away, encouraged tourists to be vigilant against these crimes by reporting cases to a national hotline, and resulted in a 15.6% increase in reports of violence against children during the World Cup compared to the previous summer. 

*The EU statistics are only for notifications from the 19 EU countries with which the UK exchanges criminal records electronically.