18 Apr 2005

The Commissioner said he was extremely concerned that children are being forced into dangerous situations by criminals who involve them in drug taking and other activities.

However, Mr Williams said new legislation is now available and no child should live in fear of any sexual abuse.

A number of very worrying reports have come to my attention that criminals are attempting to involve children and young people in prostitution,he said. But with the introduction of new legislation such as the Sexual Offences Act, and including the new Risk of Sexual Harm Orders, there are more and more ways that statutory agencies can reach out and prevent this from continuing, or even starting.

The Commissioner said the legislation has meant the risks to children and young people through this type of criminality, and new threats from abusers using technology can be combated more effectively.

My office has been liaising with the PSNI and child welfare organisations like Barnardos and NSPCC to promote an effective response to these trends in child sexual abuse.

We all need to be vigilant and encourage young people at risk that help is available, and that the law can be used to intervene and make sure that any adult trying to sexually abuse a child, is dealt with, and cannot have contact with that child again. These new powers allow quicker intervention on behalf of children without long drawn out court proceedings.

To children and young people I say, If you think you are at risk, are already suffering abuse, or are aware of others who may be at risk please get in touch with those who can help NSPCC, Barnardos, the PSNI, Childline or ourselves at 028 9031 1616. We and many others are there for you

Notes for Editors:

More information on the work of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People can be found at: www.niccy.org.

The Sexual Offences Act (2003) was introduced in 2004 and includes the provision for the PSNI to seek a Risk of Sexual Harm Order to protect children and young people who may be at risk or being groomed by adults for sexual purposes.

Before taking up his current position as Commissioner, Nigel Williams was the Chief Executive of the charity Childnet International promoting safe and effective use of the internet by children and young people. In that capacity, he drew attention to the problem of internet grooming of children, and recommended to the Home Secretary that a new offence was necessary to protect children. This advice was accepted and Mr Williams was a member of the Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet that developed the details of the new offence including the Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and preparing the guidelines on its use