Clause 44 - Arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence

Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 27th May 2021.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 37—Retrial for child sexual offences—

“(1) Schedule 5 of The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is amended as follows.

(2) After paragraph 14, insert—

‘Sexual assault of a child under 13

14A An offence under section 7 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.’

(3) In paragraph 15, leave out from ‘where’ to the end of the paragraph.

(4) After paragraph 15, insert—

‘Sexual activity with a child

15A An offence under section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity

15B An offence under section 10 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Indecent assault against a child under 16

15C An offence under section 14 or 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 where it is alleged that the assault was against a child under 16 by a person over 18.’”

New clause 39—Aggravated child sexual offences—

“(1) The Sexual Offences Act 2003 is amended in accordance with this section.

(2) In section 14—

(a) in subsection (4), at the beginning, insert ‘Subject to subsection (5),’; and

(b) after subsection (4), insert—

‘(5) If one or more of the following applies, a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life—

(a) the child has a mental impairment at the time of the offence;

(b) the child is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in connection with the offence;

(c) the child dies as a result of physical harm suffered in connection with the offence;

(d) as a consequence of the offence the child is forced to engage in sexual activity with another child;

(e) as a consequence of the offence the child is forced to engage in sexual activity with a family member;

(f) more than 500 pounds were paid in aggregate for the commission of the offence or related offences.’

(3) In section 48—

(a) in subsection (2), at the beginning, insert ‘Subject to subsection (3),’; and

(b) after subsection (2), insert—

‘(3) If one or more of the following applies, a person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life—

(a) the child has a mental impairment at the time of the offence;

(b) the child is subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment in connection with the offence;

(c) the child dies as a result of physical harm suffered in connection with the offence;

(d) as a consequence of the offence the child is forced to engage in sexual activity with another child;

(e) as a consequence of the offence the child is forced to engage in sexual activity with a family member;

(f) more than 500 pounds were paid in aggregate for the commission of the offence or related offences.’”

New clause 40—Communication for the purpose of causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child—

“(none) Section 48 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child) is amended by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (1)—

‘(1A) A person commits an offence if he communicates with another person, whether in person or remotely via electronic communication through the internet or other telecommunications, for the purpose of committing an offence under subsection (1), regardless of whether the sexual exploitation takes place.’”

New clause 41—Causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity—

“(1) Section 8 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (Causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity) is amended in accordance with sections (2) and (3).

(2) In paragraph (1)(a), leave out ‘to engage in an activity’ and insert ‘, having communicated with B by any means, to engage in an activity in any part of the world’.

(3) After subsection (1), insert—

‘(1A) For the purposes of this section “by any means” includes, but is not limited to—

(a) in person, and

(b) remotely via electronic communication through the internet or other telecommunications.’”

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 2:45 pm, 27th May 2021

I will start with new clause 37 on extending double jeopardy. I start with a quote from Dean Radford in the Metro in 2019,

“Like many young boys who grew up with a dream of becoming a footballer, the sport was my whole life. It was the be-all and end-all. I didn’t even want to think about not being offered a contract. That dream looked like it could become reality when I made it to Southampton Football Club at 13 years old. They had produced some of my favourite football heroes and I was given the amazing opportunity to train with boys like myself, who wanted to be the next big thing in football. All of this came to a halt when I was subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of a coach I trusted and looked up to.”

In the 1980s, Radford was one of six boys allegedly abused by their football coach and scout Bob Higgins at Southampton football club. Higgins was acquitted of all charges in the ’90s and continued in same line of work. In 2016 the football abuse scandal rightly erupted, and more than 100 people came forward in relation to Higgins. Higgins was convicted of 45 counts of indecent assault involving 23 victims over a period from 1971 to 1996.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 sets out exceptions to the law of double jeopardy if the offences are considered “severe” or “serious”. Murder, kidnapping, serious drug offences, serious criminal damage offences, and penetrative child sex offences all come under that definition. The schedule does not exempt any offences relating to non-penetrative sexual assault or sexual activity with a child. Due to double jeopardy exemptions not applying in sexual assault or indecent assault, the original six complainants against Higgins from the 1990s were prevented from having their case reheard. I find it shocking that the law does not deem non-penetrative child abuse as serious or severe enough for retrial.

The Government is right to acknowledge that extending the list of qualifying offences is not something to be undertaken lightly, but any form of child sexual abuse, whether it involves penetration or not, should be considered a serious or severe offence. Survivors do not differentiate between the severity of different forms of sexual abuse; they do not have a hierarchy. They judge it by the impact on their lives, which tends to be both devastating and lifelong. Abuse of a child should be the very definition of a serious crime, regardless of whether penetration has taken place. I return to the quote from Dean Radford in 2019. He says:

“even though Higgins is in jail right now, he spends no time in his cell for the abuse he [allegedly] subjected us to. He sits in jail knowing he got away with it when it comes to us. He took away years of my childhood and ruined my adult life, without paying any consequences for it. There isn’t one day that I don’t feel sick to the stomach, or sleep through one night without waking up and thinking of what he did to me.”

New clause 37 would amend schedule 5 to the Criminal Justice Act to include child sex offences set out in sections 7 to 10 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and sections 14 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956. Will the Government at the very least commit to a review of the law in this area? It has been 20 years since the Law Commission conducted such a review. The proposed changes to the double jeopardy laws have received widespread support, including from the Victims’ Commissioner, the all-party parliamentary group for adult survivors of child sexual abuse, and over 15,000 people who have signed a change.org petition.

The case of Dean Radford, who was abused by Bob Higgins, is just one that devalues the fairness that should exist in our criminal justice system. Higgins was convicted of abusing a total of 24 boys, but the police, Crown Prosecution Service and clearly the criminal jury and judge appreciated the veracity and importance of Radford’s evidence, because as he was a witness at Higgins’ trial in respect of the abuse—but he did not get the conviction in relation to Higgins’ abuse of him.

Photo of Bambos Charalambous Bambos Charalambous Shadow Minister (Home Office)

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. My constituent Ian Ackley was also abused, by Barry Bennell. He was one of the first whistleblowers on the sexual abuse of young men by football coaches, but because he was one of the first, he did not get the support that others got subsequently. As a result, he was encouraged to allow certain offences not to be pursued as much as he would have liked. Does she think that, with additional support, that would change—and how does that relate to her new clause?

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

My hon. Friend knows that I have the great privilege of knowing and working with Ian. He is a remarkable survivor, who does everything he can both to prevent and to seek justice for child abuse. The problem in a lot of these cases is that the abuse happened in the past. As technology has moved forward—in the use of DNA, for example—the evidence available now will be so comprehensively different from that available to those brave enough and successful enough to try to get a case to court in, say, the ’70s or ’80s, that not to allow double jeopardy in the case of child abuse seems a really poor and morally reprehensible decision. We have the opportunity to change that now for these specific cases.

As I said, the last review into double jeopardy was conducted 20 years ago by the Law Commission. Since then, the disclosure in 2017 of abuse by Jimmy Savile and in 2016 of abuse within football, and disclosures in other parts of society have changed the societal landscape so radically that I ask the Minister to consider at the very least initiating such a review.

I will end with a question that I put to the Victims’ Commissioner:

“Non-penetrative child abuse offences are not seen as serious crime; therefore, they do not fall under the double jeopardy rule. Should they be?”––[Official Report, Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Public Bill Committee, 20 May 2021; c. 113, Q178.]

Her answer, in a word, was yes. I urge the Minister, if she will not accept the new clause, to consider a review into this important topic, which is widely supported by the public and a number of bodies.

I will now speak to new clauses 39, 40 and 41 together, while giving a little bit more detail on each one. They all relate to online sexual abuse of children. It might seem silly to say, but people seem to see online abuse as not as severe as abuse in a room, which is nonsense, because online abuse is a child being abused; they are just not in the same room as the abuser. I have to put a health warning on some of the examples that I will give, but I need to give them to explain. Hopefully no one in this room has any knowledge about what is going on out there on the internet, but unfortunately some of us work in this field and so do know. It is pretty chilling, hence my earlier attempt to put “trauma” into the police covenant.

I have worked really closely on these new clauses with the International Justice Mission, which is a fantastic organisation.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

The Minister is nodding. The IJM is leading the way in working collaboratively with international justice departments, police departments and local voluntary organisations around the world. It gave me one example from its recent work in the Philippines, where it has been spending a lot of time. Recently, Philippines police rescued a three-month-old baby in an operation to free children from online sexual exploitation, and weeks later they brought a two-year-old to safety. This is what we are talking about when we talk about online abuse.

The International Justice Mission reports that children it has helped to rescue have been abused by family members. It has been supporting children who have, for example, contracted sexually transmitted diseases as a result of their abuse. Online sexual exploitation includes creating, possessing or distributing child sexual exploitation material such as photos or videos. Traffickers livestream the exploitation to satisfy the online demand of child sex offenders paying to direct the abuse in real time. That crime has been growing internationally, particularly during the covid pandemic, as online offenders have been at home with greater access to the internet and with fewer eyes on them, while victims have been locked into the same environment as their traffickers.

The National Crime Agency has stated its belief that the UK is the world’s third largest consumer of livestreamed abuse. That means that people here are sat in their homes directing the abuse of a child in another country. We must strengthen our criminal legal framework for apprehending those offenders in the UK. They may not physically not carry out the act, but they are directing it, and as far as I am concerned, that is as good as.

The International Justice Mission research shows a trend of relatively lenient sentencing for sex offenders in the UK convicted of abusing children in the Philippines, for example. Offenders serve on average only two years and four months in prison, even though they spent several years and thousands of pounds directing the sexual abuse of children. Those sentences do not represent justice for the survivors and, probably just as important, they do not deter the perpetrators. Prevention is vital, but a framework must be in place to give law enforcement the tools they need to act effectively.

I welcome some of the changes in the Bill, which will really help to deal with the problem, including clause 44 and the positive shifts on sentencing for those convicted of arranging or facilitating sexual abuse. We could go further simply by including online offences.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office)

I cannot really argue with the points my hon. Friend makes, which seem completely correct. At the bottom of my road was the Shirley Oaks home, which was the scene of massively severe child abuse decades ago. Victims are still coming forward and being compensated for it. The internet now makes it possible for huge numbers of people to be involved in that kind of awful activity, so it is even more important not only that we catch up and stop seeing online offences as different criminal offences, but that we ensure that our response to that crime and our sentencing are such that we can stem the tide. We need to go even further, because that kind of abuse is so widely available that perpetrators can abuse children in any country around the world.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

My hon. Friend makes absolutely the right point. I am talking about UK offenders abusing children internationally, but hon. Members, particularly the Minister, will also be very aware of the rapid escalation of abuse of UK children through online means.

I remember when I first started to research the issue. Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, said, “Sarah, what you need to understand is that when a family is sat down watching ‘Antiques Roadshow’ on a Sunday night, and the six-year-old is there playing on their iPad, they could be being groomed and abused in the same room as the parents, and the parents just don’t understand that.” It always chills me. If I may deviate very slightly, Chair, it frustrates me enormously that the Government’s legislation for mandatory relationship education for all children from primary school age, which should have been introduced in September, still has not been brought forward. We have to address that because covid has really escalated the abuse faced by children in this country and internationally.

I will say a few words about the new clauses so that the Committee, particularly the Minister, can understand. We are seeking with new clause 39 to bolster provisions by introducing aggravated offences to capture particularly egregious abuse—for example, where siblings are forced to commit abuse or other degrading or inhuman abuse. I will give an example. One of the International Justice Mission clients said:

“I was asked to strip in front of the camera while a foreigner watches and dictates my next actions. Sometimes, they force me to have sex with animals like dogs and made me do other obscene acts.”

The aggravated offences build upon the groundbreaking legislation introduced in Australia in recent years. The offences listed in Australia help to bring to the surface of the legislation the true nature of the vile abuse suffered by many children at the direction of UK sex offenders. It would give police and prosecutors additional tools that more accurately reflect the severity of abuse that is quite typical in these cases.

While existing legislation can be used for overseas sexual exploitation cases, it does not adequately capture the harm caused to the child. It does not necessarily capture the extreme nature of the abuse and the demands placed upon children. It does not necessarily take account of the involvement of other family members, including siblings, in the contact abuse. It does not necessarily include the financial element of this crime, which reflects the economic imbalance that is played upon by sex offenders, enabling them to exploit children.

The aggravated offences seek to reflect that reality and equip police and prosecutors to charge and prosecute offenders accurately, and the judiciary to impose a more appropriate sentence upon conviction. That includes when a child has a mental impairment; when a child is subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including having sex with animals; when a child dies of physical harm; when a child has to engage in sexual activity with another child; and when a child has to have sex with a family member.

New clause 40 seeks to address the communications that enable, facilitate or incite the abuse of children. A typical example might involve a British sex offender engaging with an adult in the Philippines, communicating with them through online forums and on social media platforms, with a view to abusing a child. As I mentioned, there is a power dynamic involved between British sex offenders and the adults in the Philippines who are directed to commit contact abuse. The new clause would address communications or activity that is intended to enable the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child. It addresses the initial steps taken by the offender with the intention of committing an offence, regardless of whether that offence in fact took place.

The sex offender might be looking to engage in sexual activity with the child themselves, for an adult to engage in sexual activity with the child or for the child to engage in sexual activity with another child. It would be common for the British sex offenders to send money for food, education, medical supplies and so on in order to manipulate the adult to facilitate or commit the abuse either in person or via live stream. It is vital that this type of behaviour, which creates the conditions for abuse, is covered by the law. The new clause is intended to do so—to capture the exploitative nature of such abuse. Very often these cases involve communication over a significant period of time, rather than one-off instances of abuse. They are, in effect, examples of one adult grooming another to abuse a child. That level of intentionality and exploitation must be reflected in the law. Of course, early intervention is needed before a child is ever abused and the new clause sets out that it is an offence to communicate this intention, even if the sexual abuse or exploitation does not take place.

Finally, new clause 41 seeks to clarify that offences under section 8 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 involving inciting, arranging or facilitating child sexual abuse may take place online or in person, in the UK or around the world.

These simple additions to a Bill that I really welcome would future-proof the law. As the Minister is well aware, more and more abuse is happening online and that is only going to continue. I feel deeply for the police, who know this, but Pandora’s box has well and truly been opened. Even with unlimited resources, it would still be incredibly difficult to address this issue, but with the resources that the police have, they are failing. These new clauses recognise the level of abuse that is happening to these children at the hands of UK nationals.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 3:00 pm, 27th May 2021

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe, and I do recognise that you know what you are doing. I tend to have a big mouth at times, and I am often the first one to jump in, maybe a little bit prematurely.

I pay tribute to the Clerks of this Committee, just as my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon Central did. We all know that their professionalism is first class, but my greatest admiration is for their patience, which they have had to demonstrate daily in helping us prepare for this particular Bill. I also apologise to you, Chair, and to the Minister, the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle, that I was a couple of minutes late to the Committee this afternoon. I gather that the Minister mentioned that she is going to address the issue of 16-year-olds being designated as adults in clause 36 of the Bill.

I am sure that Members on both sides of the Committee will join me in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham for the tremendous amount of dedicated work she has done on child exploitation since arriving in this House. Her experience and ability to pull together Members from across the House not just to champion the rights of children but to help educate us on what is happening in our society, is admirable to say the least. Today, she has finally had that most important opportunity: the chance to propose a series of amendments to legislation to help address some of those issues and, above all, better protect young people from the predators who would ruin their lives.

As Members will have seen, we are supportive of what the Government are trying to do in this space, but it is important that we do not lose this opportunity to strengthen this work in the best interests of our children and young people. We hope that Ministers will remain in listening mode, ready to adopt the revisions that we are suggesting, in relation to not just clause 44 but the following clause 45. There is very little that I can add to the detail outlined by my hon. Friend, so I will address clause 44 and new clauses 39 to 41 in relatively brief fashion.

As has been said, clause 44 addresses the need to strengthen section 14 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, with subsection (2) extending the offence so that it covers acts preparatory to the offences in sections 5 to 8 of that Act: among other things, the rape of a child under 13, assault of a child under 13 by penetration, and causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity. The proposed sentence changes are to be welcomed as a step in the right direction, and the new clauses proposed by my hon. Friend are designed to bolster what the Government are trying to achieve while, more importantly, demonstrating a much tougher approach to those who would commit the most heinous of crimes against children.

As outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham, new clause 39 will introduce aggravated offences to cover the most serious cases such as those involving particularly degrading treatment of a child, or where a family member or the family are involved in the contact abuse. This reflects landmark legislation that has been introduced in Australia, as my hon. Friend has set out in more detail. Each of the aggravating factors listed in this new clause—I am pleased that my hon. Friend read them out—is an example of the most depraved and horrifying offending that can be imagined. We strongly believe that these instances of extreme abuse and exploitation should be captured in legislation, and I am sure the Government agree that offending of this nature needs to feel the full force of the law.

New clause 40 will criminalise online communications or activity that are intended to enable sexual abuse and exploitation. As abuse moves online, it is so important that we ensure our legislation keeps place with emerging criminal activities so that these abusers are still held to account for their crimes. This new clause will address the initial steps taken by the sex offender who is intent on committing an offence, and will ensure that law enforcement has a framework through which it can tackle this horrendous behaviour at the earliest point possible.

Finally, new clause 41 will make it clear that offences of inciting, arranging, or facilitating child sexual abuse can take place in person or online, in the UK or in any other part of the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham spoke of the important work of the International Justice Mission. As she said, the IJM’s teams in the Philippines work with local and international law enforcement to address situations in which sex offenders pay to direct and livestream sexual abuse of Filipino children. Sadly, and to our shame as a nation, it is often sex offenders in the UK who are driving the demand for such abuse. The National Crime Agency believes that the UK is the third-largest consumer of livestreamed abuse in the world. The harm that the demand causes cannot be overstated. Many of the children whom IJM has assisted are very young: around half were under 12 years of age when they were helped to safety. The severity of the harm caused by online offenders here in the UK must be recognised.

Currently, UK offenders who directed and paid for the livestreamed sexual abuse of Filipino children will serve an average of just two years and four months in prison. Are the Government content with that? I would hope not. The new clauses will go some way to addressing the injustice and will help hold UK online offenders accountable for the abuse and trauma they cause. We need the abusers to know that they cannot hide behind their computer screens and access extreme material without knowing that when they are caught—modern technology is improving the chances of that tremendously —they will not just get a slap on the wrist but will go to prison for a considerable length of time. I hope the Government will support the amendments.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

No need for apologies, Mr Cunningham. It is important that the Bill is properly scrutinised and that the parliamentary procedure is complied with. I call Minister Philp.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

It is a great pleasure, once again, to serve under your chairmanship, Mr McCabe. I join the hon. Member for Stockton North in paying tribute to the hon. Member for Rotherham for the work that she has been doing in this area for so many years. I am sure the entire Committee, and anyone listening, will have been deeply moved by her speech a few minutes ago, in which she described the most appalling abuse that I know all of us, as a House, can come together to combat and fight. I know she has been tirelessly working in this area for many years, and the whole House is grateful to her for the work and leadership she has shown.

The provisions in the Bill that we are discussing form only a small part of what the Government are doing to combat these terrible crimes, and I pay particular tribute to the Minister for Safeguarding, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle, who leads the Government’s work. Before talking about the provisions in the Bill, I want to draw attention to some non-legislative work that is going on, particularly the work that is being done internationally, including through the “Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy”, which I think was published earlier this year. The hon. Member for Rotherham talked a few moments ago about a separate piece of legislation—the forthcoming online safety Bill, which aims to tackle many of the issues that we have been discussing. We are of course also working internationally with other states and with international organisations and charities, such as the International Justice Alliance and the International Watch Foundation, to make sure that we protect children overseas. Legislation is important, but so is action. The Minister for Safeguarding and others in Government are committed to taking that action, and we welcome the support from Members of different parties in doing that.

Let me pick up some of the points that the hon. Members for Rotherham and for Stockton North raised in their comments. A question was posed by the hon. Member for Stockton North in his excellent speech: he asked whether we were content with some of the sentences being handed down to people in the United Kingdom who go online and cause a deeply traumatising offence to be committed in another country, such as the Philippines or elsewhere. The answer is no, we are not.

Clause 44 aims to address the lacuna that currently exists in this area and that we think needs to be closed. Clause 44 is a critical part of doing that.

Specifically, the clause seeks to close a gap in legislation relating to arranging or facilitating the sexual abuse of children under the age of 13, to start with. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 already contains a number of specific child sex offences. Under the provisions of the Criminal Attempts Act 1981, attempting to commit any of those offences is an offence itself. The 2003 Act rightly goes further and provides in section 14 that it is also an offence to undertake acts that are preparatory to one of the offences under sections 9 to 13, which among other things cover sexual activity with a child.

The clause aims to address a gap in relation to section 14. The offence of “Arranging or facilitating commission of a child sex offence”, currently does not apply to child sex offences under sections 5 to 8 of the 2003 Act, which include rape and other offences against children under the age of 13. First, therefore, clause 44 closes that gap.

Secondly, and in relation to the point that the hon. Member for Rotherham and shadow Minister the hon. Member for Stockton North made, clause 44 does more. Critically, it also aligns the maximum penalty for a section 14 offence with the maximum penalty for the substantive underlying offence being facilitated or arranged. If, for example, someone is inciting, arranging or facilitating a horrendous act to be committed in another country online, the maximum penalty for doing so is the maximum penalty for what is actually being done to that child, not simply for facilitation or arrangement.

That critical change ensures that people will be sentenced for what is actually being done to the victim, exactly as the hon. Members for Rotherham and for Stockton North rightly called for. That is a critical change. To give an example, the maximum penalty for arranging or facilitating the rape of a child under 13 would now be life imprisonment, reflecting the seriousness of that act being done to the child, rather than simply 14 years’ imprisonment at present. That is absolutely right. As the hon. Member for Rotherham rightly said, the fact that the person is inciting, facilitating and arranging that act is just as serious as the physical conduct of the act itself. Were that person not arranging or facilitating it, it would not have happened. The hon. Members for Rotherham and for Stockton North are right to say that it should be prosecuted and punished as seriously as the act itself. The Government are in complete agreement with that, and the clause accomplishes it, as drafted.

Let me move on to one or two other points, which the hon. Member for Rotherham in particular made—territorial application and offences committed online. The existing offences, which we have just talked about, under sections 8, 14 and 48 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, are now being strengthened by clause 44, as we have discussed. Those offences can already be prosecuted, regardless of the method of communication, whether that is two people in the same room talking to one another, or someone online giving instructions by email. It does not matter what the method of communication is, prosecution can still happen.

I was shocked to hear the statistic given by the shadow Minister about the UK being the third-highest live-streaming source country in the world. That is a shocking and shameful statistic. The law as it stands allows prosecution, and prosecutions happen under the current law, but clearly we need to do more to ensure that the law is used to prosecute more widely. That is part of the tackling child sexual abuse strategy work that my hon. Friend the Minister for Safeguarding is leading.

Territorial application is making sure that it does not matter where in the world the offences happen, they can still be prosecuted. Section 72 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 makes it clear that the offences can be prosecuted even when the physical act happens outside the United Kingdom. A section 14 offence—the one being strengthened by clause 44—again applies to acts conducted or carried out in any part of the world. The law allows prosecution for an act committed elsewhere, where the communication is online. That is already inherent in section 14; it is inherent in the 2003 Act, which we are strengthening.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 3:15 pm, 27th May 2021

The Minister’s speech is incredibly reassuring, and I am glad that it will now be in black and white in the transcript, because it gives the comfort that we need. However, hearing everything that he is saying, is there any objection to putting the words “online” or “international” in the Bill, just for clarity and just because there is a change? The likelihood of people reading through all the guidance when they are making a decision is slender, whereas they will go to the Act and it would be there in black and white, which would give a lot of comfort.

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. My clear understanding is that the police already prosecute for these offences. I will go away and double-check with colleagues to make sure that there is no scope for misunderstanding by law enforcement authorities: the police; the National Crime Agency; and the Crown Prosecution Service. Having investigated that question further, I will write to her with the reply to her question. The law permits it, and the law is being used. However, I will just seek that assurance that there is no misunderstanding by practitioners. My understanding, as I say, is that they are prosecuting and getting some convictions, but I will double-check her point and get back to her in writing.

I think that speaks to the issues raised in new clauses 40 and 41. In relation to new clause 39, I think that the essence of what the hon. Lady is seeking to achieve is delivered by clause 44, as it is drafted, by making the maximum penalty the maximum sentence for the underlying act that is committed. To take the most extreme and distressing example, if someone is being raped and that has been incited, facilitated or arranged online, that facilitation will now—if we pass this clause—lead to that maximum sentence applying. It will be the underlying offence that triggers the maximum sentence, which I think addresses the point that she is quite rightly making in new clause 39. I believe that clause 44 addresses that issue.

Finally, there is the question of new clause 37, which is concerned with double jeopardy. I completely accept, and I think the Government accept, that this is an incredibly difficult area, where a very difficult balance has to be struck, because on the one hand we have long-standing interests of natural justice, which say that someone can only be tried for a given offence once for reasons of fairness, natural justice and finality, but on the other hand there are the points that the hon. Lady has very powerfully made concerning these very distressing offences.

As the hon. Lady said, this issue was looked at by the Law Commission in the early 2000s and then legislated for via the 2003 Act. In fact, the Law Commission initially only recommended that the exemption to double jeopardy should apply to murder. However, when Parliament debated this question, it decided to expand the range of exemptions, which were covered in schedule 5 to the 2003 Act, to cover, in addition to homicide, other offences, as she said, such as rape, penetrative sexual offences, kidnapping and war crimes. Such offences are generally punishable by a term of life imprisonment, or in one or two cases by the exceptionally high standard determinate sentence of 30 years.

A line has to be drawn as these things are balanced, which is an extremely difficult line to draw, because there will always be offences that are just over the non- exception side of that schedule 5 line, which are very grave offences. The hon. Lady very powerfully described why those offences are so appalling, offensive and terrible. She is right—they are—but we have to try to strike a balance in deciding where that line is drawn. Clearly, offences of rape and sexual assault involving penetration are exempted—they can be tried again—but those that do not involve penetration are not in schedule 5, so the rules on double jeopardy apply.

The Bill does not change that, and there are no plans to change where the line is drawn. As the hon. Lady raised the question in such powerful terms, I will raise it with more senior colleagues in Government to test their opinion—I can make no stronger undertaking than that—to ensure that her point, which she articulated so powerfully, gets voiced. I will let her know the response. I do understand her point, but there is a balance to be struck and considerations of natural justice that need to be weighed as well.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

I appreciate what the Minister is saying. In that discussion, will he throw in the potential of another review? In relation to this crime, things have moved on so much, not in the last 20 years, but in the last five years, so it would be good to hear his colleagues’ thoughts on that as well.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood

I have been listening carefully to the Minister’s response. Will he undertake to get back to Opposition Members and indeed the whole Committee before Report?

Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I almost said that without being prompted, but, since I have now been prompted, yes, I will.

I hope that the commentary I have given on the operation of the clause addresses the many points quite rightly and properly raised by the hon. Member for Rotherham and the shadow Minister. I have undertaken further to investigate two points, and I hope that on that basis the Committee is content to see the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

I know that members of the public get a little confused by this, so I remind them that the new clauses were debated as part of our discussion on clause 44 because that is where they sit most logically, but we will vote on them at the end of our consideration.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 44 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.