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European Parliament supports stronger legislation against child sexual abuse

European Commission - IP/11/1255   27/10/2011

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European Commission - Press release

European Parliament supports stronger legislation against child sexual abuse

Brussels, 27 October 2011 – The European Parliament today approved the European Commission's proposal for a Directive on combating sexual abuse, sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

"The Commission made it clear one year ago that the EU will not tolerate children being used as objects to satisfy the sexual desire of criminals, or traded as commodities. I am extremely pleased that the European Parliament and the Council have lent their support to this proposal," said Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs. "With this directive we can make a difference. We are making it easier to prosecute and prevent crimes against children, and we are strengthening the protection of victims. I am confident that this new EU legislation will make a real difference in protecting children from these horrible crimes."

The Directive, including a number of amendments adopted in the Parliament today, closely reflects the Commission's proposal.

It notably includes provisions not only on the prosecution of offenders, but also on the prevention of offences and protection of child victims. It provides for the right of employers to ask for information on criminal records, and for awareness raising campaigns and the training of professionals as preventive measures. The directive also introduces the obligation for Member States to remove child pornography pages hosted on the Internet in their territory and to take action to have them removed if hosted abroad.

The EU Member States in the Council are now expected to formalise the political agreement and adopt the Directive shortly.

Background

The terms ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘sexual abuse of children’ refer to different forms of acts, such as sexual relations with a child under a certain age or under coercion, child prostitution or child pornography. These are particularly serious crimes against children, who need special protection and care, and ones that produce long-lasting and serious harm to child victims. Yet fighting these crimes is very difficult. Children are vulnerable, ashamed and often afraid to report what has happened to them.

In March 2010, the Commission tabled a proposal for a Directive (see IP/10/379 and MEMO/10/107) to substantially upgrade EU Legislation, namely Framework Decision (2004/68/JHA), which ensured a minimum approximation of national legislation but had considerable shortcomings. The proposal has been discussed with the Council and the European Parliament, and a political agreement was reached on a compromise text in June 2011.

The new Directive will make it easier to fight crimes against children by acting on different fronts:

  • On criminal law, a wide range of situations of sexual abuse and exploitation will be criminalised, covering new phenomena helped by the Internet, like child grooming, webcam or web viewing of child pornography. More detailed provisions on levels of penalties (6 different levels from 1 year to 10 years' imprisonment) will ensure greater consistency in classifications of the severity of the offence and will reduce differences between Member States' legislation.

  • To combat abuse by travelling sex offenders (so-called "child sex tourism"), national authorities will be able to prosecute nationals abusing children abroad, and organising travel to abuse children, or advertising sex abuse opportunities will be prohibited.

  • To facilitate the criminal prosecution of offenders, it will now be possible to initiate cases in all Member States up until the time child victims reach majority; confidentiality rules will no longer be an obstacle to preventing professionals working with children from reporting offences; and the police will be obliged to set up special units to identify child victims (especially of child pornography) with effective investigative tools.

  • Child victims will enjoy more protection in the form of extensive assistance and support following an individual assessment of each child, as well as measures to facilitate access to legal remedies and to avoid trauma from participating in criminal proceedings

  • To prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, convicted offenders will be individually assessed, and will have access to special programmes to prevent them from committing new offences; background checks for candidates applying to work with children will be easier and more comprehensive; and education, awareness raising campaigns and training to detect child sexual exploitation will be deployed.

  • To disrupt the distribution of child pornography on the Internet, Member States will be obliged to ensure that child pornography pages hosted in their territory are removed and must take action to have them removed if hosted abroad. They may also set up procedures to block access by users from their territory if they wish.

Fore more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/malmstrom/welcome/default_en.htm

Homepage DG Home Affairs:

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/index_en.htm

Contacts :

Michele Cercone (+32 2 298 09 63)

Tove Ernst (+32 2 298 67 64)


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