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Sexual offences against children are terrible crimes, with a profound, damaging and long-term impact on the lives of victims and their families. The public, rightly, wants to ensure that children have the best possible protection from sexual abuse.

The Sexual Offences Act is the first major overhaul of sexual offences legislation for more than a century. It provides a series of important new measures specifically designed to give better protection to children and families and to put the needs of the victims first.

The Act plugs previous loopholes in the law, sets clear limits and boundaries about behaviour with children, and reflects what we know today about the patterns and impact of sexual abuse in childhood. It is designed to meet the 21st century challenges of protecting children and applies to issues such as Internet pornography and ‘grooming’ children for abuse. It also sets out new and updated laws on the sexual exploitation of children through prostitution and pornography.

Acknowledging that children are also at risk from people in positions of trust, and within families, it provides new legislation against abuse by people who work with children, and updates the laws on sexual abuse within families.

All of these measures are designed to provide a clear and effective set of laws – setting strong standards to deter and punish abusers, giving the police and the courts the up-to-date offences they need to do their job, and ensuring that children have the strongest possible protection under the law.