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Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Sexual grooming

7.Provisions are also brought forward to strengthen the law on sexual offending to better protect children from child sexual exploitation by implementing specific proposals made during consultation on the ‘Review of the Law on Child Sexual Exploitation’

8.Under these provisions, four new offences are created, all of which seek to deal with an adult masquerading as a child and making a communication with a view to sexually grooming a child under 16. The four offences, collectively, seek to cover all possible angles of approach – communicating with an individual, communicating with a group, communicating with a view to grooming a particular child and communicating with a view to grooming any child under 16.

9.This builds upon existing child grooming and sexual communication with a child offences contained within the 2008 Order (Articles 21, 22 and 22A). The proposals in this area aim to address behaviour at an earlier stage, where offenders pretend to be children as a precursor to grooming or carrying out other offences and where this behaviour would constitute an indicator that they present a risk to children.

10.The offending behaviour is not limited to online activity. The act of pretending to be a child does not fall within any of the existing offences contained within the 2008 Order and therefore this provision seeks to bridge that gap. The proposed offence will be unique to this jurisdiction.

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