Serious Crime Bill [HL]

Written evidence submitted by Barnardo’s (SC 05)

About Barnardo’s

1. Barnardo’s works directly with over 200,000 vulnerable children, young people and families every year through over 900 services. We use the knowledge gained from our work with children to campaign for better policy and to champion the rights of every child. Our purpose is to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people.

2. Barnardo’s is the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the UK. We have been tackling sexual exploitation since 1994 and now deliver specialist services in over 40 locations nationally. We support around 2000 children who have suffered, or are at risk of, sexual exploitation each year. Staffed by qualified professionals, our services provide a safe and confidential environment where young people can go for help, advice and support.

Summary

3. Barnardo’s welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Public Bill Committee. Part 5 of the Serious Crime Bill contains a number of important child protection provisions, including in relation to Female Genital Mutilation. We believe that it also presents an opportunity to further strengthen the police’s ability to fight the grooming and sexual exploitation of children.

4. Barnardo’s provided the secretariat to a cross-party Parliamentary inquiry in early 2014, chaired by Sarah Champion MP. This inquiry considered the effectiveness of legislation for tackling child sexual exploitation. It received evidence from victims, police and legal professionals and made a number of recommendations, some of which were legislative. [1]

5. The Government has accepted one of the legislative recommendations of the inquiry’s report – on grooming [2] – in an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The Serious Crime Bill offers the opportunity to implement another key recommendation: placing Child Abduction Warning Notices, a tool currently used by the police, on a statutory basis.

6. Following debates on this issue at the Committee and Report stages of this Bill in the House of Lords, and after continuing discussions with Home Office officials and police across the country, we believe that a ‘two-stage’ process should be introduced, mirroring the provision that is already in place for Domestic Violence Prevention Notices/Domestic Violence Prevention Orders [3] .

7. This change would strengthen the power of the police to protect children from grooming and exploitation, while also:

7.1. Ensuring judicial oversight over police powers to issue statutory orders; and

7.2. Maintaining the ability of the police to issue a CAWN without delay.

Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs)

8. Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs) are part of a police procedure to document and record potential evidence for the future. They are used by the police as a deterrent against those thought to be grooming children by stating that the suspect has no permission to associate with the child and, if they continue to do so, they may be arrested for an abduction offence under the relevant legislation [4] .

9. CAWNs are a valuable safeguarding measure, particularly in cases where children do not recognise themselves as victims but where families have identified a risk. This is because issuing a notice involves taking a statement from the person with parental responsibility ("lawful control"), rather than the young person.

10. However, in written and oral evidence to the inquiry, the police argued that placing the notices a statutory basis would give them far greater strength and impact, enabling them to intervene earlier and disrupt perpetrators more effectively.

The need for a statutory basis

11. Breaching the conditions of a CAWN is not an offence and action can only be taken if the thresholds of the abduction offences (in the Child Abduction Act 1984 and the Children Act 1989) are met.

12. Both of these offences require a perpetrator to ‘take’ or ‘detain’ the child. However, the nature of the grooming process means the control that a perpetrator has over a child is likely to involve mental or emotional manipulation, not necessarily physical force. Actions that breach the conditions of the notice - i.e. the adult is simply with the child without permission - may therefore not lead to arrest or prosecution.

13. Placing CAWNs on a statutory footing would enable the police to intervene in the grooming process earlier and with greater effectiveness, enabling them to better protect vulnerable children before a more serious offence has been committed.

14. An additional benefit is that prosecution for breach of a CAWN would not require the victim to give evidence; it would only need to be proved that the conditions of the CAWN had been breached i.e. that the adult was with the child.

15. C urrently , if a perpetrator breaches a notice but the police are unable to take action, the confidence of victims and the ir families in the police’s ability to protect them is eroded. Strengthening notices through statutory powers would therefore also help to improve victims’ confidence in the police when they seek help and protection.

January 2015


[1] The inquiry’s report is available here:

[1]

[2] The Government’s amendment would reduce the number of times perpetrators need to make contact with young people from two to one prior to meeting them with the intention to groom them to be considered to be committing an offence (as long as other conditions are met).

[3] See sections 24-31 of the Crime and Security Act 2010

[4] Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 and section 49 of the Children Act 1989

Prepared 15th January 2015