Clause 12 - Engaging in sexual activity in the present of a child

Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 11th September 2003.

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Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 3:45 pm, 11th September 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 44, in

clause 12, page 5, line 3, leave out from 'it' to 'knowing' in line 4 and insert—

'(i) when another person (B) is present or is in a place from which A can be observed, and

(ii) '.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths Labour, Bridgend

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 50, 56, 66, 80, 97 to 99 and 103.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office

Amendments Nos. 44, 50, 56, 66 and 80 redefine the offences relating to engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child or a person with a mental disorder to include situations where the offender is in a place from which the activity can be observed and he believes that the other person is aware, or intends that that person should be aware, that he is engaging in the activity. The amendments are needed to close a loophole in the current version of clauses 12, 20, 34, 38 and 42. I am happy to acknowledge that that loophole was exposed during

discussion in the House of Lords, where a commitment was given that that issue would be considered further. Hon. Members have already referred to the benefit of the scrutiny in another place.

The clause covers a situation in which a person in, for example, the next room or in the garden of a house next door to a child's home engages in sexual activity, intending the child to see it, for his—the offender's—own sexual gratification. Clauses 20, 34, 38 and 42 share the same wording and consequently they are similarly amended.

Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 make minor, presentational drafting changes to clause 70, which deals with the interpretation of the provisions on voyeurism. Amendment No. 99 would remove from that clause the definition of observation, because the term is now, by virtue of amendment No. 103, included in clause 80 on general interpretation, which applies to the whole of part 1. It is therefore unnecessary to define it again.

Amendment No. 102 defines the word ''image'', which we shall deal with in a later clause, and No. 103 defines ''observation''. They ensure that the offences referred to above would include the observation of the sexual activity by means of an image created by, for example, a webcam or other remote viewing system. That will help deal with paedophiles and others who use technology and the display of sexual acts through the internet or mobile phones as part of their abuse of a child, or as preparation of the child for later abuse.

Some of the amendments are minor or presentational and others are more substantial. I hope that hon. Members have found my brief explanation helpful.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Conservative, Beaconsfield

I welcome what the Minister has done. I am grateful that he has taken on board the remarks made in the House of Lords. The amendments are undoubtedly a major improvement to this part of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 12, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.