Grooming offences are a hot topic for the media and are even being played out on our soaps. In a digital world children have become more vulnerable to grooming.
Section 15A of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA) makes it a criminal offence for anyone aged 18 or over to intentionally communicate with a child under 16, where the person acts for a sexual purpose and the communication is sexual or intended to elicit a sexual response.
The offence is committed whether the contact is in person or via email, texts. It also includes contact via gaming and social media.
Why is it needed and what does it mean? The new offence is designed to allow authorities to intervene in grooming before it escalates to sexual activity. It therefore aims to be preventative and to protect the child before any other sexual offence occurs.
The new offence became law on 15 April 2017 and carries a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment and offenders will automatically be added to the sex offenders register.