HC Deb 05 March 2003 vol 400 cc83-4WS
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Hilary Benn)

The Government are committed to tackling the sexual exploitation of children wherever it occurs in the world. This includes where UK citizens go abroad with the intention of abusing children. We have already put in place a number of measures to deal with this problem but the Sexual Offences Bill currently before Parliament provides us with an opportunity to ensure that we are doing everything we can to deal with those who commit sexual offences overseas.

Under current legislation the courts do not have the power to stop an offender who has been convicted of sexual offences against children from travelling overseas. We believe this is wrong and that it should be addressed. We therefore intend to bring forward a Government Amendment to the Sexual Offences Bill that will introduce a new foreign travel banning order that will enable courts, in certain circumstances, to prohibit those convicted of a sexual offence against a child from travelling to specified countries. We hope to introduce this amendment by the end of March.

The new order would be a civil preventative order made following an application from a chief officer of police. It would apply to those convicted of a sexual offence against a child under 16 either in the UK or overseas. The order would be available where the court was satisfied that it was necessary to protect children overseas from serious sexual harm by the offender and that there are no other, equally effective means, to prevent such harm. The orders would last for up to six months renewable on further application from the police.

In addition to introducing the proposed foreign travel banning order, we will be consulting with interested parties on the arrangements for the notification of foreign travel by "registered" sex offenders. We are aware that this issue has generated considerable interest. We will consult quickly on this issue with a view to making the Government's intentions clear by the end of March. This will enable our intentions to be considered and debated fully during the passage of the Sexual Offences Bill through Parliament.

A paper with further details on the Government's proposals has been placed in the Library.

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