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Issue:- 24 October 2014

Charity calls for ban on adults sending sexual messages to children
Photography by Jon Challicom.  The girl in the photos is a model.

THE number of children counselled by ChildLine about online sexual abuse increased by 168% last year; averaging 7 counselling sessions a day to the free, 24 hour helpline.

The rise in children’s cries for help is revealed as the NSPCC launches its Flaw in the Law campaign to make it a crime for an adult to send a child a sexual message.

A national YouGov poll, which included 255 people from the North West, found that nearly three out of four adults believe it is already illegal for someone over 18 to send a sexual message to a child under 16, when in fact no such specific offence exists.

Over 8 out of ten people polled by YouGov said they would support a change in the law and the NSPCC is now urging the public to back its campaign by signing an online petition.

The ChildLine base in Liverpool counselled 197 children about online sexual abuse last year.

1 young person who contacted the Liverpool base, said:- "I’ve been texting this older guy I met online a lot recently. He seems really nice and has suggested meeting up. I’ve told my friends about it and they’ve said it’s not a good idea. They don’t understand our relationship though. I talk to him for hours a day so I know I can trust him."

NSPCC head of child safety online Claire Lilley said:- "No adult should be deliberately sending sexual messages to children, but incredibly it is not always illegal. Existing laws are a hotch potch and sex offenders can and do exploit the loopholes. The rise of online communication means that children are increasingly being exposed to sexual messages from adults, on social networks or through messaging apps, but in many cases the Police are powerless to act. Currently, old laws are being stretched to fit new paedophile behaviour. The Serious Crime Bill now being debated in Parliament is a unique opportunity to tailor the law to better protect children from sexual abuse. And we need the public to get behind our Flaw in the Law campaign."

There have been reported convictions of adults in Scotland for communicating sexually with children under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009. However, the NSPCC believes that under the current law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is unlikely that similar cases would have led to a criminal prosecution, unless the abuse had escalated.

People can find out more about the NSPCC campaign and sign the petition at:- and join the debate on social media at:- #FlawedLaw

Anyone looking for advice about keeping children safe online, or concerned about the safety and welfare of a child, can contact the NSPCC’s 24 hour helpline on:- 0808 800 5000 or email:-

Children worried about online safety or any other problem can call the free, 24 hour helpline on:- 0800 1111 or get help online at:-

Please email us your views on this topic to our newsroom via:- and let us know what you think about this issue.

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