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Last Updated: Friday, 3 March 2006, 09:53 GMT
Time to tackle 'sex tourism'
By Liam Allen
BBC News

Former rock star Gary Glitter has been convicted of committing obscene acts with two girls in Vietnam.

But what is being done in the UK to deal with British "sex tourists" committing offences against children in other countries?

Gary Glitter
Glitter was permanently expelled from Cambodia in 2002

In January of this year Alexander Kilpatrick, a 56-year-old father-of-two arrested in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, became the first person to be jailed in the UK using new laws to prosecute those who abuse children abroad.

As part of his sentence, Kilpatrick, who was jailed indefinitely for making trips to Africa to abuse poor children, was banned from Africa, Thailand, Cambodia, Goa or Costa Rica - all places associated with "child sex tourism".

Foreign Travel Orders, which allow for paedophiles to be banned from destinations where they could be a risk to children, were brought into law in May 2004 as part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

We need to ensure that UK nationals who escape prosecution overseas are bought to justice if they return to this country

A spokesman for the NSPCC said sex offenders must be brought to justice "no matter what country they abuse children in".

He told the BBC News website: "We need to ensure that UK nationals who escape prosecution overseas are bought to justice if they return to this country under the Sex Offences Act 2003."

Enshrined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was the power to bring Britons to trial in the UK for alleged sex offences committed abroad but only if they are also considered crimes in that country.

But the NSPCC spokesman said this was wrong and added: "The NSPCC wants to see this loophole closed so that all children, regardless of where they live, are better protected."

'Low-volume crime'

Aid agency World Vision say there have only been four cases - and three convictions - brought under these rules in that time.

But a Home Office spokeswoman said it did not have any figures for the number of offenders prosecuted under the powers.

Alexander Kilpatrick
Alexander Kilpatrick was the first person to be jailed under the new laws

She said: "It is a fairly low-volume crime...but you need to have the powers in place."

The UK had "one of the most advanced systems in the world for monitoring and managing dangerous offenders", she said.

Christine Beddoe, director of Child Prostitution and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Exploitation International UK (Ecpat) - an international group which is trying to stamp out the sexual exploitation of children - criticised the lack of definitive figures.

She told the BBC News website: "Why it's so elusive is that there is no central agency keeping tabs. We're at the mercy of knowing about cases when they get published in the media."

But she said the legislation was used in "very, very few cases".

We certainly know there's more intelligence out there for investigation

"We don't think the legislation is being used anywhere near enough to get the message across that child sex tourism is unacceptable," she told the BBC News website.

Denouncement call

Mrs Beddoe said intelligence from travellers and holidaymakers could be crucial in the fight against child abuse on foreign shores, but it could only be improved with more support from the travel industry.

"There's nothing at airports telling travellers how to report seeing anything suspicious or who to report it to.

"We would like to see high-profile, well-trusted British travel companies more publicly denouncing child sex tourism."

"Definitely sex offenders exploit difficult situations. With high levels of poverty and children living on the street, it's all too easy to exploit that," she added.

Child prostitutes in Thailand
We have a duty to protect every child everywhere and we must take an uncompromising approach to travelling child abusers

A spokeswoman for the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) said officers worked "very closely" with their counterparts in sex tourism hotspots including Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

"We have a duty to protect every child everywhere and we must take an uncompromising approach to travelling child abusers," she told the BBC News website.

"Britons who travel abroad to abuse children in the belief they can evade justice are a UK problem and we offer support for prosecutions to this end."

New unit

In February 2005 British police visited Thailand to train local officers in methods of combating sex offending.

In November it was announced that British police would be working with Cambodian authorities to track down sex tourists who travel from the UK to abuse children.

The Soca spokeswoman also cited the soon-to-be-launched Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre - which will see specialist law enforcement officers brought together with lawyers and charities to fight paedophiles - as further evidence of the progress being made.

Police also hope a new G8 initiative for a shared computer database of sex abuse images will help the international effort.

A spokesman for Abta said that, on police advice, it advised its members to report anyone booking holidays to known child sex tourism hotspots "who looks suspicious".

"Clearly, there are no travel agents, at least not Abta travel agents, actively promoting any sex tourism."

He urged any travellers who saw anything suspicious to report it to the authorities.

Glitter jailed for abusing girls
03 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Move to curb sex trade travel
05 Mar 03 |  UK Politics

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