Tuesday, 6th July 2021

Today, Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly Member Naomi Long has introduced a new bill aiming to improve services for victims of trafficking and exploitation and enhance public safety by updating laws on child sexual offences. ECPAT UK welcomes The Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill, which contains a number of provisions to strengthen the response to child sexual exploitation.

We are particularly pleased to see the bill focus on eradicating the use of harmful terminology around sexual offending against children — something the ECPAT network has long advocated for — and extending the definition of exploitation for sexual purposes to include live streamed imagery.

ECPAT UK has long called for greater protection of children abroad from sexual offences committed by UK nationals and documented offenders who travel to areas of endemic poverty in order to commit sexual offences against children.

With increased global access to the Internet, offenders in the UK are increasingly using social media and other Internet platforms to sexually exploit children abroad by live streaming their abuse. This means offenders no longer have to travel abroad to sexually exploit children, and offences are harder to detect – putting children at great risk.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation into the protection of children abroad highlighted significant protection gaps and the UK Government Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, acknowledged the increase in online offending since 2018 and set out a range of measures to address it including new legislation.

However, the government’s draft Online Safety Bill fails to include online offences by UK nationals against children abroad within its scope.

Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said:

“We welcome the proposed changes to the law in Northern Ireland to include live streamed images of children in its definition of exploitation for sexual purposes and anticipate it will result in greater action against offenders who target children in this way.

It is well established that live streamed sexual offences constitute some of the worst forms of sexual abuse against children. As the UK Government legislates against online harms to regulate the platforms that facilitate online sexual abuse, we’re concerned that children abroad aren’t forgotten and left unprotected.

The UK Government must ensure our legislation is fit for purposes so that all children are protected against online sexual abuse and exploitation.”


Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK: [email protected] 07402 113 985