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NI opens consultation on child safety

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Northern Ireland, department of Justice, public consultation, child sexual abuse, law, “I would encourage everyone with an interest in protecting children to access the consultation.”

Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice has just published a consultation which includes proposed measures to strengthen the law to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse where a child or young person is exploited, coerced or manipulated into engaging in sexual activity in return for something the child needs or wants and/or for the gain of those who perpetrate or facilitate the abuse.

The consultation invites views on laws which currently protect children from sexual exploitation and proposes measures to strengthen some of these laws where appropriate.

Views are sought from interested parties and individuals, particularly those who have experience in dealing with child sexual exploitation.

The consultation looks at existing criminal law relating to a number of specific areas including: indecent images of children; grooming and online exploitation; child abduction; child sex dolls and sexual offences involving abuse of trust.

It also proposes additional measures to assist in dealing with ‘up-skirting’ and strengthened police powers to prevent and stop exploitation and abuse.

This consultation exercise will allow proposals to be developed in readiness for consideration by a future Justice Minister.

There is a problem, though, as any legislative changes arising from the consultation proposals will need the approval of a Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

But the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed on 9 January 2017 when the late Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness stood down as deputy first minister amid the furore over a botched renewable energy scheme in which Arlene Foster, the current leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), was involved.

This has left Northern Ireland without its powersharing administration and “voiceless” in the face of Brexit and other problems.

Sinn Féin’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill said that the Conservative government’s response, with the full support of the DUP, has been to adopt a do-nothing approach to restoring power sharing in Northern Ireland, and that: “The British government continues to facilitate the DUP’s disgraceful denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands, language rights, marriage rights, women’s rights and the right to a coroner’s inquest.”

Nonetheless, there is a consultation.

And the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Justice, Peter May, said: “We want to ensure that the legal framework for protecting children is up to date, appropriate and effective in all aspects, including emerging trends such as online and technology-based abuse.

“These laws are essential, not just to protect children and young people from abuse, but also to bring perpetrators to justice.

“The outcome of this consultation will contribute towards creating a safe community by ensuring that the law relating to these issues remains valid and appropriate.

“I would encourage everyone with an interest in protecting children to access the consultation and give your views on these important issues.”

The consultation closes on 16 April 2019.

To take part, click here.

If you are concerned about a child, or if you need advice or support, click here.

If you or another person feel threatened or are in danger, call the police on 999.

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