Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 to apply additionally to the possession of prohibited written material about children; to make consequential amendments to the Act; and for connected purposes.
Section 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 is entitled “Possession of prohibited images of children”. Such images are pornographic. I wish to add as a prohibition the possession of child abuse pornography in the form of the written word. Some years ago, I went through one of the early parliamentary police programmes with the London Metropolitan police. I highly recommend the course. I spent one day, however, with what the Daily Mail and similar call the paedophile unit. It was a shock. I could not believe that people could do such appalling things to children, including babies. I found the police estimate of active paedophiles in the UK way beyond anything I could have possibly imagined, and I was stunned that approximately 20%, they thought, were female.
Following the course, I had a meeting with the full Metropolitan team, at which it became apparent that some major and minor legal changes were required. I became a member of the then Home Office taskforce, which led to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which introduced the offence of child grooming. Additionally—either on my own or with others, and with the co-operation of the Government of the day—I have helped to introduce about a dozen changes. As a Home Office Minister, the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins) was particularly sympathetic and helpful, which explains why he is down as my only backer—although I would expect a considerable following if I asked other Members across the House.
This small Bill would close what I believe to be a loophole and an anomaly. It is illegal to possess indecent images of children. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre—CEOP—has just published a research document on that very topic. Mentioned in the report, albeit almost as a sideline, is the fact that some offenders not only possess, distribute and produce photographs, but possess graphic notes or writings of child abuse. For some, the written word is more powerful than pictures. For some, the written word promotes a graphic image in their minds. I have long been aware of the correlation between those who possess or distribute indecent printed material of children and those who commit horrific contact offences against children. Such written material fuels the fantasies of paedophiles, which is a key factor in their offending behaviour. It is therefore vital that we crack down on any form of indecent material in the written form, so that real children can be saved from abuse.
I was shown some examples of such material by then Detective Chief Inspector Dave Marshall, who is a nationally renowned expert in this area. On looking at such material, anybody would see that I am not referring to writings such as “Lolita”. The written material that I am targeting today is absolutely vile. Indeed, it can be as shocking as images described as level 5, based on the classification used by courts when sentencing for the offence of possessing indecent images of children. Section 62 of the 2009 Act describes prohibited images as
“pornographic…grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise…obscene,”
“of such a nature that it must reasonably be assumed to have been produced solely or principally for the purpose of sexual arousal.”
That description also applies to the written word that I am targeting. I believe that, interestingly, the distribution of such material is already prohibited, but possession is not. It should be.
I understand that there is some concern that any change along the lines that I am considering will contravene EU legislation. However, a number of our EU partner countries have just such legislation now. If it works for them, it should work for us.
Question put and agreed to.
That Sir Paul Beresford and Paul Goggins present the Bill.
Sir Paul Beresford accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 19 October, and to be printed (Bill 68).