People caught with documents that contain practical advice on how to commit sexual offences against children will face tough sentences.
So-called ‘paedophile manuals’ will be outlawed by the creation of a new criminal offence with a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison, Justice Minister Damian Green has announced.
It is currently against the law to possess indecent images of children but there is no existing offence of possessing manuals which give advice on how to groom or abuse children sexually.
Justice Minister Damian Green said:
The contents of these so-called manuals are both disgusting and deeply disturbing. Their purpose is to facilitate sexual offending against children and we will do all we can to stop that.
All sexual offences are abhorrent and our laws to protect children in this area are already very robust but we are now making absolutely sure that people caught in possession of this material can be properly punished. They should be left in no doubt – they will face the full force of the law.
Under the current law, it is illegal to produce, circulate or possess with a view to distribute any indecent photograph of a child under 18. Possession of an indecent photograph of a child is also an offence. The Obscene Publications Act 1959 can currently be used to prosecute people publishing paedophile manuals but not simply possessing them.
The government plans to create the new offence as part of the new Serious Crime Bill as soon as possible. It is expected to come into effect next year.
Notes to editors
The production, circulation or possession with a view to distribute any indecent photograph of a child under 18 is an offence under the Protection of Children Act 1978. Possession of an indecent photograph of a child is also an offence under the Criminal Justice Act 1988.
The new offence would extend to England & Wales.
The creation of the new offence is the latest government move to toughen up sentences for sexual offences.
These include an automatic life sentence for anyone convicted of a second very serious sexual or violent offence.
Since 2010, sex offenders are more likely to go to prison and for longer. The average custodial sentence length for sexual offences has increased from 49 months in 2010 to just over 59 months in 2013.
For more information, please contact the Ministry of Justice Press Office on telephone: 020 3334 3636.