Press Release – 17/12/15
A call for harsher jail sentences for men who rape 16 and 17 year olds will be made in the House of Commons today (Thursday) by Ann Coffey MP.
Ms Coffey, the Author of the report ‘Real Voices – Child sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester’, said the message should go out loud and clear that a sexual offence committed against a 16 or 17 year old should always carry a heavier sentence than if the victim had been an adult.
Ms Coffey, who has co-sponsored today’s backbench Commons debate on protecting 16 and 17 year olds from child sexual exploitation, said the government should also spell out that a young person’s consent to take drugs and alcohol could never be viewed as consent to sexual acts.
The call for greater protections for 16 and 17 year olds comes after it was revealed that tens of thousands of sex crimes against this age group are going unreported because victims fear they will not be believed, or they feel complicit or they feel ashamed.
A recent report by the Children’s Society entitled ‘Old enough to Know Better?’ shows police received 4,900 reports of sexual offences against this age group last year – but the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows an estimated 50,000 girls alone said they had been victims.
The report highlighted that children of this age group were particularly vulnerable to child sexual exploitation and yet had fewer protections. This can leave vulnerable older teenagers in grave danger facing hidden abuse and harm. They currently linger in the grey area between childhood and adulthood, too easily falling through the cracks in protection and support.
The report said that young people are often blamed for putting themselves in risky situations, even when they have been groomed and plied with drugs and alcohol –despite the fact that they have not reached 18 and are not considered an adult in the eyes of the law.
The report’s recommendations, supported by Ms Coffey, call on the Government to:
*clarify that where the victim of a sexual offence is 16 or 17 this should always be considered an aggravating fact in the offence for sentencing purposes. The law should send out a strong message that crimes against all children, including those aged 16 and 17, will not be tolerated.
*make clear that for prosecution and sentencing purposes, a young person’s consent to take drugs and alcohol can never be viewed as consent to sexual acts.
Ms Coffey will say in the Commons:
“We know that 16 to 17 year olds are a difficult and challenging age group but we need to understand that during these two years they are inhabiting an often dangerous twilight world between childhood and adulthood.
“This vulnerability needs to be recognised and a very clear message needs to go out to sexual predators that if they commit sexual crimes against this age group they will receive a tougher sentence.
The backbench debate entitled ‘Protecting 16 and 17 year olds from child sexual exploitation’ will take place in the Commons from approximately 12.30 am onwards on Thursday December 17 depending on Commons statements.
The speech Ms Coffey plans to give can be found here – http://anncoffeymp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Protecting-16-and-17-year-olds-from-child-sexual-exploitation-speech.pdf