As a consequence of the murder of Sarah Everard there has been an outpouring of grief and anger. Part of that anger is directed towards politicians who have previously ignored the plight of women, failing to take steps to protect them from predatory men. The government has responded, promising action and money, to make the streets safer for everyone.
Do Not Forget The Children
The pandemic has shone a light on assaults on women, with the government pledging significant funding over the last 12 months. The pandemic has also seen a sharp rise in online abuse of children, with agencies working hard to fight against those who seek to exploit children. However, there is a danger that with so many issues to address, some of those may not receive all the support they require from government and others. Therefore, it is important that as a consequence of recent events, we do not forget the children who are one of a number of groups, that are vulnerable to assault, abuse and exploitation.
Do We Need More Legislation to Protect Children
As an illustration the charity, the Children’s Society, reported, in March 2021, that the modern slavery laws, designed to target those who exploit children, such as county lines drug traffickers, were only used for underage offences 30 times in 2019/20. The charity described the figure as “disappointingly low”. Questions therefore arise as to why has the legislation been used so little, to protect children, and whether further legislation is required to plug the gaps?
Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “Too often, offenders are getting away with sickening, often terrifying grooming and exploitation of children-including for sexual activity and to carry drugs.
“There are glaring gaps in existing powers to disrupt predators and protect children at an early stage before they suffer often unimaginable harm and trauma.
“When this happens, perpetrators too often escape the full force of the law because existing legislation fails to recognise the power imbalance between children and the adults targeting them or the full range of cynical grooming techniques used.”
Protecting Children in the Future
It is essential that if the law is tightened to prosecute those who exploit children, and funds are made available to provide children with support, that this action and funding is followed through to ensure objectives are met. We do not want to be looking back in five years time, only to see that despite the best of intentions and funds being available we failed to make the lives of women and children safer. The government and all those responsible for protecting women and children must be continually held to account, whatever other demands may be placed upon our politicians.
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