HC Deb 22 June 1998 vol 314 cc357-9W
Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to amend the Street

whether the offender had previously committed either a heterosexual or homosexual offence. Data are not available centrally prior to this date and provisional data for the first quarter of 1998 will not be available until the autumn.

Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 provides that a homosexual act which takes place in private between consenting parties of the age of consent shall not be an offence if it takes place in private. By virtue of section 1(2)(a), however, such an act is not regarded as taking place in private if more than two persons are present. The offence information held centrally on convictions under the Act does not identify the circumstances or location in which the offence was committed.

In 1996, 112 offenders aged 18 or over were convicted of a homosexual act of buggery or indecency between males where the second party was aged 18 or over. A further 14 offenders aged 16 or over were also convicted for the same offences, where the second party was aged 16 or over.

Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will list, for each of the past 10 years(a) the number of prosecutions under section 25 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 and (b) the number of convictions obtained; [46541]

(2) if he will list, for each of the past 10 years (a) the number of prosecutions under section 1 of the Indecency with Children Act 1960 and (b) the number of convictions obtained. [46540]

Mr. Michael

Available information for 1986 to 1996 (latest available) is given in the table.

Offences Act 1959 to distinguish between offences committed by adults and offences committed by children. [46539]

Mr. Michael

The Government believe that the criminal justice system should treat children who are involved in prostitution differently from women. The Government's primary concern is to protect and deter children, both boys and girls, from becoming caught up in prostitution and to recognise that they are frequently the victims of coercion and abuse.

The Government have recently announced their intention to conduct a review of sexual offences and penalties. In the light of this, we will want to consider very carefully the laws relating to soliciting, for women and men and young boys and girls, but we do not believe that legalising child prostitution would help to protect children.

Although the Street Offences Act 1959 does not distinguish women prostitutes from girl prostitutes, the numbers of girls who have been prosecuted or cautioned for soliciting offences is small. The police, together with children's charities and others, have developed guidelines to ensure that children involved in prostitution are treated as victims in need of welfare rather than as offenders.

Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance he has issued to police forces in England and Wales on liaising with other agencies to make provision for young people to leave prostitution. [46543]

Mr. Michael

The general principles for inter-agency co-operation for the protection of children were set out in inter-departmental guidance issued under the Children Act 1989 to the police and other agencies in 1991. The Government are currently consulting on revised proposals for inter-agency co-operation to safeguard children.

The Association of Chief Police Officers has also adopted best practice guidelines for the police that emphasise that children caught up in prostitution should normally be treated as victims and in need of help, rather than criminals. These guidelines were drawn up in discussion with the Children's Society and other agencies, the Department of Health and the Home Office, and emphasise the need for multi-agency partnerships, particularly with local social services, in dealing with child prostitution.

These guidelines were piloted in Wolverhampton and Nottingham, where they are regarded as having been a success. The pilots are now being evaluated independently by the Home Office.

My noble Friend Lord Williams of Mostyn announced on 30 March 1998, Official Report, House of Lords, column 9, that new guidance on how best to deal with the problem of children involved in prostitution will be issued in the autumn. It will take account of the Association of Chief Police Officers' guidelines on dealing with children involved in prostitution, the Crime and Disorder Bill [Lords], and the response to the Government's current consultation exercise on proposals for inter-agency co-operation, together with prevention, care and rehabilitation of children involved in prostitution or those at risk of prostitution.

Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to change the law to increase sentences for those convicted of living off the immoral earnings of a child under 16. [46542]

Mr. Michael

The Government want to ensure that severe penalties are available for those involved in child prostitution. I have announced a review of all sexual offences and will be considering possible changes to such penalties in the context of that review.