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Friday, August 27, 1999 Published at 01:22 GMT 02:22 UK


Crackdown on Net porn

The guidance aims to improve child protection measures

The government is to crack down on paedophiles who use the Internet to distribute pornography.

The Web is one of the areas outlined in a consultation paper detailing how agencies can cooperate to protect children from abuse.

The draft guidance, Working Together to Safeguard Children, is part of government plans to get tough on child abuse and to ensure protection measures address current problems.

It is believed to be the first time guidance has been issued on how to handle Internet pornographers.

Other areas covered by the paper include safeguards for vulnerable children, particularly the disabled and children in care along with measures to prevent unsuitable people working with young people. It also states how child prostitutes should be treated as victims rather than criminals.

'Effects ignored'

It also stresses the importance of assessing the effect of wider social problems on children, such as domestic violence, divorce, parental mental illness and social exclusion.

Experts say the effect on children of living with or witnessing domestic violence has often been ignored.

The government says the paper, which updates 1991 guidance, also reflects "our better knowledge and understanding of adults who pose a threat to children" and outlines ways of deterring them.

Health Minister John Hutton said: "The guidance stresses the shared responsibility of families, professionals and the wider community for keeping children safe from harm, and helping them to grow up happy and thriving."

Recent studies

He added that it gave agencies such as social workers, teachers and the police "a clear framework" on how they should work together to tackle abuse.

The draft guidance, which is out to consultation until 31 October, outlines how organised abuse should be investigated in the light of evidence from recent major inquiries and provides a framework for conducting reviews into cases where a child has died through abuse or neglect.

It proposes that an executive summary of each review shoud be made public so others can draw important lessons.

A final version of the guidance will be published by the end of the year.

'Firm foundation'

Tony Butler, a spokesperson for the Association of Chief Police Officers which has been working with the government, said the guidance would help agencies work together to reduce abuse.

"[It] will provide a firm foundation for future working practices."

Rob Hutchinson of the Association of Directors of Social Services added: "It has taken account of the changing environment in child protection, and in particular new areas of understanding, including children involved in prostitution and the potential for abuse via the Internet.

"We believe that procedures have been strengthened through this exercise."

And a spokeswoman for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children particularly welcomed the guidance on the Internet.

"It shows how paedophiles will find new avenues as their more traditional ones are closed down.

"They can get access to children via the Internet and we need to be on top of that."

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