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Internet grooming and abuse of a position of trust to be offences 11 August 2006

From Friday 1st September, when the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2006 comes into force, internet grooming and the abuse of a position of trust will be offences in Manx law.

Many countries have recognised the potential problem of young people being lured to meet unscrupulous adults via the internet, and the Government believes the new offence of travelling to meet a person who is under 16 following sexual grooming is a step forward in the protection of the Island’s children. The adult will be guilty of an offence even if sexual activity does not take place, or if the meeting is prevented, so long as the adult’s intentions can be proved.

In another measure aimed at protecting vulnerable young people, it will also be an offence for anyone who is over the age of 18 to enter into a sexual relationship with someone aged 16 or 17 when they are in a “position of trust” over the young person.

The offence is similar to one that has existed in UK law for a number of years. The definition of a position of trust is limited to certain circumstances where the young person is particularly vulnerable or the relationship of trust is particularly strong. Examples include teachers and their students; health workers and their patients; and care workers or youth justice workers looking after young people in a home or institution.

A person who is found guilty of either meeting following sexual grooming or the abuse of a position of trust could face a fine and/or up to five years imprisonment. They will also have their name placed on the sex offenders register.

Home Affairs Minister, John Shimmin MHK, said:
“I took this legislation through the House of Keys and I am pleased that it will soon be coming into force, as protecting vulnerable children and young people from adults who might try to take advantage of them sexually is of the utmost importance.
Obviously we must do whatever we can to prevent the sexual grooming of children, but I also believe that most people in the Island would consider it unacceptable for a responsible adult to have a sexual relationship with a young person who is in their care. I therefore welcome the introduction of both these new offences. In addition to being able to prosecute them for the first time, I hope the fact that anyone found guilty will have their name placed on the sex offenders’ registrar will have a strong deterrent effect.”

To comply with the Island’s international human rights obligations, the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2006 also amends the Sexual Offences Act 1992 so that the age of consent for young homosexual men will be the same as that for other people at 16 years. In addition, the Act includes the amendment successfully moved by Mrs Hannan MHK to repeal Section 38 of the 1992 Act concerning the promotion of homosexuality.

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