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Sexual Offences: Internet

Volume 462: debated on Thursday 28 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he plans to take to prevent registered sex offenders using social networking sites to access or groom children. (145035)

We published the ‘Review of the Protection of Children from Sex Offenders’ on 13 June. The review lists a number of actions to be taken, including providing for registered sex offenders to be required to notify the police of their e-mail addresses. This information could then be used to help with the management of offenders. In the review, we also recognised the need to develop the capability to monitor the online activities of child sex offenders, and we will investigate the possibility of developing software to install on offenders’ computers to do this.

Sexual Offences Preventions Orders (SOPOs), introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, are intended to protect the public, including children, from the risks posed by sex offenders, by imposing prohibitions on them. For example, a prohibition could be imposed on an offender to stop him using social networking sites. Failure to comply with such a prohibition would be a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

We have also set up a working group which includes representatives from social network providers, law enforcement and children's charities, to look at the safety issues for children caused by the development and growth of social networking sites and develop good practice guidelines.