Rape victim's father demands paedophile crackdown

Summary:Is Tony Blair about to criminalise chatroom 'grooming'?

The father of a Net paedophile victim is successfully lobbying the Home Office into criminalising the online "grooming" of children.

ZDNet UK News can reveal that its investigation into the use of Yahoo!'s chatrooms by paedophiles prompted the parents of Patrick Green's 13-year-old victim to demand a government crackdown on Internet paedophiles. Green met the girl in a Yahoo! chatroom and raped her two months later.

Blair's announcement that he was "actively considering" a review of the law to deal with online "grooming" during prime minister's question time Wednesday, was in direct response to a meeting that took place last week between the parents of Green's victim and Home Office minister Charles Clarke. The family's MP, Paul Burstow and Nigel Williams, director of children's Internet charity Childnet International, were also in attendance. "That was a useful meeting... Blair's response yesterday was no coincidence -- there is a demonstrably clear link between that meeting and the prime minister's announcement," said Burstow.

Home secretary Jack Straw and Home Office ministers Clarke and Lord Bassam had met Wednesday morning to discuss a paper submitted to the Home Office by Childnet International in which it recommended criminalising online grooming.

During prime minster's question time Wednesday Liberal Democrat MP Burstow asked whether Tony Blair was going to take steps to make online grooming into a criminal offence. On advice from Straw, Blair responded: "I am informed by the home secretary that he had a meeting on this very subject earlier this morning and we are actively considering doing what the Honourable member has just suggested".

"Grooming" is the technique that paedophiles use to entice children into sexual activity on the Internet. In the UK there is no legislation to deal with the problem of paedophile chat on the Internet. Instead it relies on the offline Indecency with Children Act which campaigners argue is inadequate.

In the Patrick Green case, the police were initially concerned that existing law was insufficient to bring charges. It was only when they found DNA evidence in Green's flat that they were able to charge him with raping the 13-year-old. Child charities argue legislation on chat would prevent such crimes. "The more this is spotlighted as an issue, the more ministers will see it as their moral obligation to amend legislation," Burstow said.

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Topics: Government : UK

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