Disruption tools available to the police
There are a number of disruptive measures available to the police that may be applied for by a chief officer of police if your child is being sexually exploited.
Sexual Risk Orders
A Sexual Risk Order can impose restrictions on a perpetrator, such as limiting their internet use, preventing them from approaching or being alone with a named child, or restricting their travel abroad. It can be issued by a court after police application if it is satisfied that the individual has done an act of a sexual nature.
Sexual Risk Orders replaced Risk of Sexual Harm Orders (RSHOs) in March 2014, after they were found to be not fit for purpose. It is hoped that the Sexual Risk Orders will be simpler, easier to implement and more effective. However, the current language does not clarify whether or not online contact falls within the definition of ‘an act of a sexual nature’. Pace is therefore backing Barnardo’s recommendation that the guidance issued by the Secretary of State is clarified to include virtual contact through social media platforms. At the time of writing, there was no official date for national implementation of the new SROs. A Pace PSW will be able to provide you with more up-to-date guidance.
Closure notices and hotel information requests
The 2014 Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act brings in new measures for police to disrupt child sexual exploitation, such as the power to close down premises used to commit sex offences. To issue a closure, the police officer must have reasonable grounds to believe that the premises were, or are likely to be, used for child sex offences and that closure is needed to prevent the place from being used for activities related to child sex offences. The officer must also be satisfied that reasonable efforts have been made to consult the local authority and to establish the identity of any residents or anyone with an interest in the premises.
Police can also request information about hotel guests, such as their name and address, from hotels or similar locations if they reasonably believe that child sexual exploitation is taking place there.
Child Abduction Warning Notices
Child Abduction Warning Notices (or just ‘notices’ in police parlance) were formerly known as Harbourers’ Warnings. They can be issued against individuals who are suspected of grooming children by stating that they have no permission to associate with the named child and that if they do so they can be arrested under the Child Abduction Act 1984 and Children Act 1989.
They can be a useful tool for parents because they require a statement from the person(s) with parental responsibility for the child. This is important if you identify a risk as a parent, but your child insists that the person is a legitimate ‘friend’ or ‘boy/girlfriend’. However, parents from Pace have experienced major frustrations with Child Abduction Warning Notices as breaching the conditions of the notice does not automatically mean an offence has been committed. This is because the legislation stipulates that it must be proven that the adult has ‘taken’ or ‘detained’ the child, which is of course difficult to prove if the child insists they remained with the offender willingly.
The other problem with Child Abduction Warning Notices is that the police are able to issue them for children up to the 18 only if they are in the care of the local authority. At the moment they can only be issued to children up to the age of 16 if they are living at home.
At the time of writing (June 2014), Pace and several other national charities publicly recommended that the Government amend the legislation to ensure that breaching the conditions is an offence and that notices can be served for all children up to the age of 18.