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Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000

Part II: Protection of Children

12.Part II of the Act introduces measures which will complete the establishment of an integrated system for the protection of children. Under this system those who ‘come to notice’ as posing a risk to children, either when working with children in the health or education sectors or by commission of a serious criminal offence against a child, may, after a proper process, be made subject to a statutory ban on working with children. This builds on the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988, the Education Act 1996 and the Protection of Children Act 1999.

13.Part V of the Police Act 1997 provided for a new criminal record system to be established which would provide three different levels of certification according to the authority of the individual requesting the information and the purpose of the requirement. This will be managed by a new Criminal Records Bureau. The Protection of Children Act 1999 provides for the Criminal Records Bureau to include information from the lists of those banned by the Secretary of State or by the courts in the two higher level certificates, where the information is sought in respect of a person seeking to work with children. It also provides for further positions prescribed by the Secretary of State to be added to those areas where information on those banned by the Secretary of State may be requested. This will permit the full scope of the new definition of working with children contained in this Part of this Act to be covered.

14.This part of the Act sets out that, where an individual is identified as being unsuitable to work with children, that individual should, after due process, be banned from such work. The Education Reform Act 1988, the Education Act 1996 and the Protection of Children Act 1999 provide for lists to be kept by the Secretary of State or National Assembly for Wales of individuals banned from working with children in organisations in the areas of healthcare, social services and education. The new measures will create a further way to ban unsuitable people from working with children. They provide that those who commit a serious offence against a child can be banned by a disqualification order by a judge from all such work as part of their sentence or the disposal of their case. The measures also provide a review process for those subject to a ban, whether imposed by the Secretary of State or a judge.

15.This Part of the Act further provides that those identified as unsuitable to work with children and banned from working with children under any of the specified methods, should be subject to criminal sanctions if they breach the ban. It will also be an offence for someone to offer the opportunity to work with children to an individual whom they know is subject to disqualification from such work.

16.The provisions include a new definition of working with children to enable all such areas of work to be covered by the ban. This will apply to work with children in all sectors, including casual work, and irrespective of whether the work is paid or unpaid.

Indecency with Children Act 1960: Sections 39 and 40

17.This part of the Act raises the age of a child against whom the offence of indecency with a child can be committed to include children up to 16. This closes a loophole in the law and should improve the protection of children against those who abuse them.

Indecent photographs of children: increase of maximum penalties: Section 41

18.Further provisions in this part of the Act strengthen the law which protects children through the prohibition on child pornography. Under the Protection of Children Act 1978, it is a criminal offence to take, permit to be taken, distribute, show, advertise or possess for distribution any indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child under the age of 16. The maximum penalty for this offence is three years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced the offence of simple possession of an indecent photograph of a child. This is a summary only offence carrying a maximum penalty of six months imprisonment and/or a level 5 fine.

19.The government is concerned that the level of penalties available for those exploiting children through the production of child pornography should reflect the fact that its production involves actual abuse of children. The number of offences committed under the Protection of Children Act 1978 and Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 has increased significantly since the concept of pseudo-images (images produced by electronic means) was added to the legislation through an amendment in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Prosecutions under the PCA 1978 have increased from 40 (1994) to 116 (1998) whilst prosecutions for possession have increased from 53 (1994) to 167 (1998). So the government is ensuring that the current penalties reflect the seriousness of these offences. The measure increases the maximum sentence for taking, making, distributing and showing and possessing with a view to distribution, indecent photographs of children under sixteen. The penalty for simple possession of indecent images is also being increased.

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