Home Office officials have briefed Coronation Street scriptwriters on the dangers of Internet chatroom, in preparation for a controversial plot scheduled for broadcast next month.
Makers of the soap have consulted the government on how to present the sensitive issue of paedophiles using Internet chatrooms to meet children and subsequently "grooming" them for offline sexual meetings. The Home Office has provided Granada, makers of Coronation Street, with the Internet Crime Forum report, Chatwise, Streetwise published in March, in order to educate them in the issues surrounding online "grooming".
In June, viewers will see teenage mum, Sarah Louise Platt, begin a chatroom relationship with an adult man whom she believes to be a young boy. In a special episode, to be shown after the 9pm watershed, the 15-year-old will fall victim to his online solicitations and be held against her will, in his house.
"Grooming" is the technique that paedophiles use on the Internet to entice children into sexual activity. Last week, the Home Office proposed an "anti-grooming" order, making it a criminal offence for paedophiles to solicit children in Internet chatrooms. This follows increasing pressure, from child protection organisations and law enforcement authorities, to stop suspected paedophiles from posing as children in chatrooms.
Reports suggest the Coronation Street victim, played by Tina O'Brien, will front a Home Office publicity campaign on the "grooming" issue. The same character was used by Health Minister, Yvette Cooper, in a campaign to crack down on teenage pregnancies. The Home Office is unable to comment on this speculation, owing to its period of purdah in the run-up to the General Election.
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