Ann Coffey

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Stockport Express Column August 2017

I was surprised to learn recently that there are no definite figures on how many armed forces veterans live in Stockport. The national census, which happens every ten years, does not collect information on the Armed Forces community – information which could help us improve support for our armed forces, both serving and retired.

I met some of these men and women when I visited the Stockport Veterans Breakfast Club earlier this year. They have served our country in conflicts including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Stockport Express column July 2017

It’s nearly the end of the school term, when children and teachers can take stock of a busy year and look forward to the summer holidays.

I was delighted to be invited back to Stockport Academy in Cheadle Heath to hear about the students’ achievements over the year, which are truly impressive. They put in so much hard work and are a real credit to the excellent teaching and learning at the Academy.

Meeting members of the Academy’s School Council, it was also clear that school is not just about exams. So much work in schools goes into helping young people develop the skills which they need to cope and succeed in today’s complicated and often stressful world.

It seems there are increasing numbers of children and young people in the UK who are experiencing anxiety or may have a diagnosable mental health condition. And they are facing more pressures than ever before – including exam pressure, social media bullying, worries about body image.

When I was researching my reports into child sexual exploitation, some of the best examples of good support for young people came from other young people. We should listen more to young people.

So I was interested to hear that the Academy’s School Council is involved in a project to help support students’ wellbeing; encouraging young people to talk about their worries, thinking about the best way to support one another emotionally, being aware of any mental health issues and understanding what might actually make a difference.

If a young person’s mental health issues can be picked up early, and they get support, then they are more likely to flourish and succeed in whatever they do – including exams.   As parents, we all want our children to be happy first and foremost, and it is good that the education system recognises this.

 

NEW LAW NEEDED TO CRACKDOWN ON INTERNET ‘CATFISH’

PRESS RELEASE FROM ANN COFFEY MP

A new law to tackle the growing menace of online sex predators who create false identities to lure people into relationships, will be called for in the Commons today.
 
Ann Coffey MP will highlight the plight of Matt Peacock, a male model from Stockport, who has had his identify stolen online for the past four years by a ‘catfish’ who has used his pictures on dating websites to create fake social media profiles to entice women.
 
During an adjournment debate in the Commons, Ms Coffey will warn of the growing phenomenon of ‘catfishing’ – where someone takes over another persons’ identity online and uses social media to trawl for dozens of unsuspecting victims at a time.
 
She will call for the introduction of a specific law against stealing another person’s identity and posing as them online to lure people into sexual relationships. At the moment there is no such law.
 
A new law should make it very clear that if someone takes someone else’s identity and poses as them online then they are committing an offence.
 
Ms Coffey will also urge social media giants, such as Facebook and online dating sites, to be more proactive to help prevent people from being deceived via their platforms, for example better monitoring and flashing messages to warn users about the growing phenomenon of ‘catfishing’.
 
Mr Peacock’s family has been put under tremendous strain and his wife has been contacted on many occasions to be wrongly told that her husband was cheating on her, asking women for illicit photographs, videos and arranging meetings.
 
Photographs of Mr Peacocks’ nephews and nieces have also been used by the catfish who claimed they were his children in an attempt to attract single mothers by appearing as a ‘caring dad’.
 
The police told Mr Peacock there was nothing they could do and so he hired a private detective for help. They tracked down the catfish who admitted using Mr Peacock’s identify to deceive dozens of women, which crucially Matt and the detective captured on tape.
 
They handed over the full taped confession, to the police. But the police said again that they could not take any action as they did not consider any notifiable crime to have been committed.
 
Ms Coffey said:
 
“Catfishing is a modern day menace affecting the lives of many innocent people. It can cause years of heartache. We must do something to deter this and a change in the law is the most effective deterrent. 
 
“A new law should make it very clear that if someone takes someone else’s identity and poses as them online then they are committing an offence.
 
“Without a specific offence, ‘catfish’ who cause so much distress to individuals and their families, will continue to exploit and harm other people.
 
“The internet has brought about many positive changes but it has also brought complex problems of how to safeguard people from those who want to deceive and harm them online.”
 
Mr Peacock said: “It affected me and my whole family. We spoke to one girl who the catfish had targeted, pretending to be me. She told me she had felt like committing suicide after being deceived by this man.
 
“I vowed then to do all I can to sort this out. Something needs to be done and if people knew pretending to be someone else on line was an offence then they might be put off.”
 
Ms Coffey has also been contacted by other victims of catfishing, including Anna Rowe, who started a petition Change.org in February 2017 calling for it to be made illegal to create a fake online profile with the intention of using it to lead others into sex. So far she has collected 41,472 names.
 
Anna’s “catfish” created a fake online persona using Facebook accounts, emails, Skype, Snapchat and Instagram accounts to create a background story of a man divorced for 15 months and looking for a meaningful long term relationship.
 
She eventually discovered that she was in a relationship with a man who was married. Since she publicised her case, Anna has been contacted by many other women who said they too had been deceived by the same man.
 
In a third case, a mother who was worried about the awful effect being ‘catfished’ had had on her son, contacted Ms Coffey.
 
Axel Grassi-Havnen has been catfished for four months and he was so upset by the emotional strain it put him under that he has made a video on YouTube to warn other young people of the dangers.
 
ENDS
 
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT JOY COPLEY 07786 357145
 
NB Adjournment debate on ‘catfishing and social media’ will take place at 4-4.30pm Tuesday July 18 in Westminster Hall.