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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meg Munn and the sex offences bill

Tuesday, November 4, 2003


Meg Munn MP has praised the Sex Offences bill which received its third reading last night.


Calling it “a good piece of legislation” she said “this will improve the chances of those who are sexually abused getting justice and it significantly improves the protection of children and adults with learning disabilities.”


Speaking in the debate last night in the House of Commons, on some of the proposed measures, Meg said


Ms Munn: It is difficult to overstate the importance of the Bill. As has been said, this is an incredibly complex area. Legislating on it is not easy. Indeed, the more we look into it and examine the situation, the harder it is to come up with proposals that will work. Offences of this nature change over time. In particular, the introduction of such things as the internet have made such matters very complex.


To be subjected to a sexual offence is devastating. It is not to overstate the case to say that, for many people, it can scar their whole lives, but that is not to take away from the people who come through that experience and, rightly, describe themselves as survivors. Many of those people have suffered for many years the frustration of seeing inadequate justice in place to deal with those offences. Their families and those who work in that sector, as I did for a number of years, have felt that our justice system was not up to dealing with such offences. Equally, it is important that future offending is prevented and the Bill, commendably, seeks to do that as well. I am encouraged by the seriousness about the offences and the lengths that the Bill goes to ensure the protection of the most vulnerable in our society.


The Bill seeks to offer protection not just to children but to adults with learning disabilities and mental disorders, and it recognises that part of the devastation that people experience when subject to such offences is the betrayal of trust. How can vulnerable adults and their families and children and their parents who have been subject to such an offence ever feel that they can trust people who are placed in positions of responsibility?


The Bill sends out a clear message to society in general as to what is acceptable and unacceptable and, beyond that, it takes seriously that that is not just a question of what happens in our country and tackles so-called "sex tourism." The Bill states that what is not acceptable for children in our country should not be acceptable for children in other countries.


(Hansard 9.27 pm column 629 November 3rd 2003 )


The proposals in the Bill, which now passes back to the House of Lords for further debate, are;


Sex offenders


?        Making all those on the sex offenders register confirm their details with the police every year so we know exactly who they are and where they are


?        Introducing a new order to make those convicted of sex offences overseas register when they come to the UK


?        Reducing period within which a sex offender must notify police of change of name or address from 14 days to 3


Sex offences


?        The Bill introduces a test of reasonableness into the law on consent. In rape and other non-consensual offence cases, where the prosecution can establish that sexual activity has taken place, that the complainant did not consent to it and that the defendant did not reasonably believe that the complainant consented, the offence will be made out. All this will be for the prosecution to prove.


?        Specifying a list of circumstances where it is unlikely that consent would have been given, for example where the victim was abducted or subjected to force or where he or she was unconscious. In these circumstances, if the prosecution prove that sexual activity took place in one of these circumstances and that the defendant knew that the circumstances existed, there will be a presumption that the complainant did not consent, and that the defendant did not reasonably believe that the other party consented to the sexual activity. Any sexual activity with a child aged 12 or under will be charged as a non-consensual offence. Any sexual intercourse will result in a rape charge. Issues of consent will not be relevant, in the interests of protecting children.


?        Existing offence of indecent assault (maximum penalty - 10 years) will be replaced by two new offences.  Assault by penetration (maximum penalty - life) and sexual assault (maximum penalty - 10 years).


?        New offences of administering drugs/ trespass / committing a criminal offence with intent to commit a sex offence. They will recognise the sexual intent behind the behaviour and allow the offender to be monitored as a sex offender. May be hard to prove but will be a question of evidence. For example person caught abducting a child with ropes, child pornography etc. in the boot of the car.


?        Repealing discriminatory offences of buggery and gross indecency that can be used against homosexuals but not heterosexuals and lesbians. Important that the law treats everyone equally. Non-consensual acts are, of course, covered.


?        New offences to give extra protection to those with mental disorders. Balancing protection with right to have a private sex life. We are repealing the offensive and inadequate offence of “intercourse with a defective”.


?        New offence of voyeurism capturing those who observe others without their knowledge for their own or others’ sexual gratification.


?        A new offence of sexual grooming to target those who gain trust and confidence of children so that they can subsequently sexually abuse them. This will carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.


?        New civil preventative order targeted at stopping activity such as using chatrooms to meet kids, sending a child pornography or indecent text messages.


?        New offences relating to commercial sexual exploitation. Buying the sexual services of a child will be made a criminal offence.


?        Some of the offences concerning the regulation of prostitution such as kerb crawling and soliciting will be made gender-neutral.


ENDS


Notes: - supportive quotes from other organisations


NSPCC:


“This is what the NSPCC has been calling for - clearer offences and tougher sentences. This is the most significant package of sex offences legislation being introduced by this Government and the strongest warning yet to those who think they can abuse children and escape the full force of the law."


Victim Support:


“Victim Support fully supports the introduction of presumptions about the absence of belief in consent into the law in rape cases. We consider that by incorporating the objective element into the question of honest belief, the legislation as drafted will bring a common sense element into the prosecution of these cases. The legislation should in time bring about a better understanding of appropriate behaviour that will serve to protect the public from sexual offences. "


The Metropolitan Police Project Sapphire:


“We are fully supportive of the Bill, particularly in respect of the changes to consent. We believe the proposals on rape will enable us to secure more convictions and get more justice for victims.”


Rape Crisis Federation:


“As the national forum for articulating the accumulated grievances of female survivors of rape and sexual offences, Rape Crisis Federation together with Campaign to End Rape endorse the pragmatic aims and political goals of the Sexual Offences Bill and robustly defend it as a feasible and important advancement for women in the justice system."


 


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