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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

7.20 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The subject matter of the Bill is an issue that will not go away. We had opportunities to debate it in 1994 and 1995 and I make no apologies for returning to it again this year. The phenomenon of child prostitution, abuse and exploitation is, alas, worldwide. It ranges from Brazil, via such unlikely countries as Croatia and Romania to the Far East. There can be no doubt that our own citizens and residents are as deeply involved as those of other countries.

Since last summer, in one small part of the Philippines, 11 foreigners have been arrested for molesting and abusing children. Seven came from a variety of countries and four from Britain. Of the latter, one will be extradited to this country to answer earlier and more serious charges here while the remaining three will be tried locally. In December four Britons were under arrest for similar offences elsewhere in south east Asia. I am sorry to say that successful prosecutions do not happen often enough and may well receive little publicity in this country thereby failing to deter. That is a theme to which I shall return.

Tourists and businessmen are highly mobile. There may hardly be time to arrest them when they have committed an offence. Even if they are held, bribery may secure their release. That is understandable where officials and police are underpaid, overworked and undertrained. Witnesses may also be unwilling to come forward unless they can have effective protection and encouragement. However, I am glad to say that the governments of the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have all passed, or at least drafted, stricter legislation outlawing child prostitution and increasing the penalties for adults caught abusing children. I have corresponded with some overseas embassies here in London. They are generally supportive of measures, including legislation by this Parliament, to protect children.

At international level bodies such as UNICEF and the International Labour Office are well aware of the needs and are doing their best to help. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we have ratified, places a duty in Article 34 on all states:


    "To prevent the exploitative use of children in prostitution".
In view of our responsibility under that convention I wish to ask Her Majesty's Government what use they have made of the Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 in respect of sexual offences against children and young people.

Police liaison officers have been sent from this country to overseas locations in respect of drug offences. Am I right that so far none has been sent in

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respect of sexual offences? If so, why is that? Is not child abuse every bit as serious as drug abuse? Twelve countries which send tourists and others abroad recently took extra territorial jurisdiction in order to carry out their duties under the United Nations convention already mentioned. Why, I wonder, have Her Majesty's Government been so reluctant and discouraging, bearing in mind that several of those countries are also common law jurisdictions? Can the objections on grounds and difficulties in proof really be sustained in view of technological improvements in transmitting evidence--for example, video satellite links--and in view of the proliferation that has occurred in recent years overseas of human rights lawyers and non-governmental organisations dealing specifically with children?

After 18 months of prodding, various Early Day Motions in another place and sundry meetings with Ministers, Her Majesty's Government have at last produced the Sexual Offences (Conspiracy and Incitement) Bill, which has been introduced in another place by the honourable gentleman, Mr. John Marshall. That Bill takes up the aiding, abetting, counselling or procurement provision contained in line 7 of my Bill and expands it into some seven clauses and one schedule. I am of course grateful for small mercies, especially when they come from the Home Office. The Bill that I mentioned is intended to be helpful whatever arguments there may be about its drafting. However, I must point out that it deals only with a very small part of the total problem. The Bill as it stands will catch travel agents, tour promoters and paedophile rings and others in this country who promote or facilitate the commission of sexual offences against minors in other countries.

Already the great majority of reputable travel agents here belonging to the Association of British Travel Agents have taken an honourable stand against so-called "sex tourism" and have refused to have anything to do with it. That Bill therefore does not give our courts extra territorial jurisdiction. The conspiracy and incitement which would be caught by that Bill have to be committed in this country. That Bill will not catch those who abuse children in other countries and return here without having been prosecuted.

I understand that there is ample evidence to show that most British residents who go abroad to abuse children do so singly and not on organised visits. No doubt many take advantage of opportunities as they happen to present themselves. I conclude therefore that the Government-inspired Bill does not deal as fully with our responsibilities as we should.

We are faced with a strange paradox. Pornographic material is imported into this country year by year. Large quantities are confiscated and destroyed. Importing such material is an offence. Possession in this country of grossly indecent photographs is also an offence but British residents who can be identified on film in the act of abusing a child in a third country cannot be prosecuted in our courts. My Bill would remedy that absurd situation.

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I accept that it is normally much better for British paedophiles to be prosecuted in the countries in which they commit their offences. If necessary they should be extradited from the United Kingdom to stand trial. In the nature of things, however, not all such offenders will be charged overseas and we do not have comprehensive extradition treaties with all the other countries. That is why we need a reserve power for our own courts. The power will probably not be used frequently but even one or two cases a year would have a powerful deterrent effect. Potential offenders would know that even if they escaped scot free while overseas, retribution could come after they return here. It should be as risky and as dangerous to molest children overseas as it is already to do so at home.

I believe that we should fulfil our international obligations in an exemplary way. Twelve countries, including some with a common law tradition, have already taken extra territorial jurisdiction. We should hesitate no longer. Today is Ash Wednesday. What day could be more appropriate to make us heed the injunction contained in Psalm 82:


    "Rescue the weak and the needy, save them from the clutches of the wicked."?
I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Hylton.)

7.30 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne: My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lord Hylton, who is reintroducing this Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill into your Lordships' House, and I congratulate him on his perseverance.

It seems to me that the Bill tackles one of the more distasteful topics that this House is ever likely to debate. I find it hard to understand how any adult would abuse the trust of a child and commit sexual offences against him or her. The horror seems magnified when we realise that adults are travelling thousands of miles to take advantage of poor children in poor countries of the world for their own perverted sexual satisfaction.

I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus when he spoke of the consequences for anyone who might cause wrong to a little child. In Matthew 18, verse 6, he said that,


    "it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea".
Those are weighty words. People committing these offences will ultimately have to face up to their creator.

I am conscious, however, that some find it difficult to listen to Christians who are concerned on this issue. They point to the sad series of cases where priests, ministers and Church leaders have abused their position in order sexually to exploit children. There are examples of such people travelling abroad to abuse children. There are examples of paedophile priests waiting for extradition to Britain for alleged offences committed against children. Such cases grieve me and bring great dishonour not only to the Church but to the name of Christ. I accept that we Christians have much to do to set our own house in order.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, so lucidly observed, Article 34 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child called for all appropriate legislative measures to be taken to stop child sexual abuse and to protect children in all countries. In August 1996, the Swedish Government will host the first world congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The UK, along with all UN member states, has been invited to attend that congress and sign up to a plan of action currently being drafted by the former United Nations special rapporteur. The plan of action calls on tourist-sending countries, of which, of course, we are one, to introduce legal measures to enable them to prosecute their own citizens who travel abroad to exploit children sexually. The current situation is that individuals who travel abroad to commit those horrendous acts cannot be prosecuted in the United Kingdom because our jurisdiction does not cover those acts committed abroad. This Bill, which was also introduced in the last parliamentary session, would extend the United Kingdom's jurisdiction.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, 12 other countries have recently introduced this legislation; namely, Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, USA, Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland. It seems difficult to conjure up a reason why we cannot introduce similar legislation if all those other countries apparently can.

It seems to me that a Bill such as that before us today can be made to work and that it gives a crucial signal to those engaging in sex tourism that there is no escape from their crime. If they are not prosecuted in other countries, at least they will be prosecuted in Britain.

I hope that the Bill receives a Second Reading. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, well in his crucial task in pushing the issue forward and seeking to protect underprivileged and vulnerable children of the world.

7.34 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, last year the Church of England Bishops, in line with other Churches, published a policy on child abuse. The guiding principle behind that was the special status which children have in the Kingdom of God, with the need to be respected as individuals and to be protected in their vulnerability. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, reminded us, our Lord himself warned that those who exploit or abuse children merit profound condemnation. Of course, the children who are the subject of this Bill are no less special because they live thousands of miles away. The principle is universal.

In 1995, Christian Aid, which is the official aid agency of the British and Irish Churches, published a report, An Abuse of Innocence. That estimated the numbers of children in prostitution in Thailand at approaching a quarter of a million. It warned also of the rapid growth in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Children become prostitutes for a variety of reasons, nearly all of them connected with the poverty of their families. But the relationship between poverty and prostitution is not simple and mechanical. Some

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children, hungering for secure relationships, are betrayed. Where tourism has developed, many are attracted to the easy money from foreign clients. A significant number are simply coerced--physically prevented from leaving the house in which they are forced to work. That is a form of slavery and children may be drugged or beaten to make them acquiescent.

Those children can be helped in two ways. The first is to foster development in their countries which will enable their families to have more secure incomes, more reliable crop yields, better healthcare and so on. That is long-term and beyond the scope of this debate. But in the House this evening we have an opportunity to affect the demand for such services from children by passing legislation to deter citizens of this country from abusing children overseas. I am told also that, in the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Britons form the second or third largest group of people deported for abusing children.

I can well understand that the Government are concerned that evidence brought against people should be secure. We know from our own situation how difficult it is to judge allegations of child abuse. But in 1991 we passed the War Crimes Act, which not only allows prosecution for crimes committed overseas but depends on evidence still being sound after 50 years. As we have already been reminded in this debate, other countries with legal systems similar to ours have not been as reluctant as have the British Government to try to overcome the difficulties posed by legislation such as that proposed in the Bill before us today.

In August 1996, as we have also been reminded, the United Nations member governments are invited to a world congress against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Everybody will be invited to sign a plan of action and declaration. As I understand it, the draft includes a recommendation on extra-territorial legislation for tourist-sending countries as argued for by UNICEF, the Council of Europe and the UN Commission on Human Rights. I hope that our Government will be there and will sign willingly. I should prefer it if that were done with the Bill before us today passed into law.

The debate about the extent to which legislation changes behaviour or reflects changing behaviour will go on. I believe that we are required to do as much as we can to prevent that pernicious, evil, sick and human-demeaning exploitation of children. I am clear that merely to prosecute sex tour operators is not an adequate response. We need to halt people in their tracks by the probability, not the possibility, of prosecution. The Church is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for this Bill and hopes that it will succeed.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I have six points which I can make in as many minutes. The first is that legally the noble Lord's Bill is well-founded. It is perfectly open in English law to extend the reach of our laws in suitable cases as we have done in relation to other crimes such as murder, piracy and slavery. The view which I have just expressed is my view; it is also the

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view expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, in the debate last year on 15th March at col. 900 of Hansard.

Secondly, we are apparently fourth in the league table of nationalities travelling abroad for sex. Ahead of us are the USA, Germany and Australia. Those three countries have passed legislation comparable to what is proposed here. In addition Belgium, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland have also passed such legislation.

My third point relates to the ability to obtain a conviction having regard to problems with evidence. Our rules with regard to proof are, I believe, in the process of being made a good deal easier. There are suggestions in regard to the hearsay rule of evidence, and I have little doubt that there will be a tendency in the future to facilitate proof. I said on the previous occasion we discussed this matter that in a world of technological improvement with videos and the like there should often be opportunities to establish what I accept prima facie is not an easy situation. I was therefore interested to learn that there have been successful prosecutions. There was one in particular in Norway where the proof consisted of videos taken by the criminal himself of his activities with some small child which were designed to provide pornographic stimulus to him and to his friends and others to whom the video was circulated. In addition there was correspondence between him and his fellow paedophiles describing the activities in which he involved himself. Therefore proof is available, difficult though it may be to obtain.

The fourth point I wish to make is that the passing of this type of legislation will provide a valuable deterrent. As is the case with some airlines, specific warnings on certain matters can be given to passengers. In the case of this Bill those warnings would no doubt be directed to citizens of, or those resident in, the United Kingdom, and would contain an indication that a recent Act had been passed which put them at risk of incurring severe penalties if they committed sexual offences with children abroad. That would instil fear among quite a high proportion of those engaged in this sort of activity. I have little doubt that it would act as a significant deterrent.

Fifthly, by passing such legislation we should be making a declaration of our abhorrence of this vile trade--as it has been described--and it would be proof that our abhorrence involved more than making pious exhortations. My sixth and final point--I still have one minute in which to speak--is the following. What have Her Majesty's Government to lose by enacting such a law? It carries with it no commitment and no vast expenditure. It means that where evidence is obtainable something should be done to implement the legislation that has been passed. It does not involve stationing policemen all round the world; there are non-governmental organisations whose assistance can no doubt be obtained. For all those six reasons I suggest that there is no valid reason for resisting the Bill and that there are at least six good reasons for supporting it.

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7.44 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, we on these Benches wholeheartedly support the Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I spoke on the previous occasion that the noble Lord introduced a Bill of this nature in the House. The noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate this evening replied to the debate on that occasion too. She understandably and rightly condemned the activities that are addressed in the Bill--in the same terms that I would use--as being deplorable and repugnant. The noble Baroness also said she thought that some of the statistics we bandied about on that occasion were exaggerated or false. However, I do not think that will be said tonight. Since the noble Lord proposed the previous Bill, the gravity of the situation has become much clearer as regards citizens of this country indulging in activities of this kind when travelling abroad.

I feel strongly about this matter as in the 1970s I travelled to Hong Kong on a business trip. On the return journey I had arranged to meet a former school friend who had been working for some time for a French pharmaceutical company in Bangkok. We arranged to meet before I returned to England. My friend felt strongly about these sexual activities involving children which were taking place in Thailand. He sought to shock me by describing, and indeed showing me, evidence of these activities. I was deeply moved by that and for many years I have felt that this activity has been allowed to continue largely ignored by the public at large.

I have recounted stories which have been greeted with incredulity. But now, thanks to the noble Lord and his Bill and the publicity it has received, more people are aware of what is happening. What makes matters even worse is that I know two persistent offenders who have committed offences with under age girls abroad. Both of those people appear to be respectable and pleasant people. They excuse and justify their activities on the grounds that, such is the economic state of the countries in which they pursue their activities, they are performing a service. That is the kind of mentality that we are dealing with. Those are educated and sophisticated people. We are not talking about grotesque people with distorted natures who save up to go on these trips. We are talking about ordinary people who are able to pursue their desire for sexual gratification with young children abroad because the latter are readily available.

It is welcome that this Bill which seeks to outlaw sexual tourism, or organised sexual tours, has the Government's blessing and, hopefully, will become law. However, that is not enough. I am no lawyer but it seems to me that there are difficulties in establishing what is an organised tour in this respect. To my knowledge people who seek this sexual gratification do not go on organised tours, although they obviously exist as otherwise we would not be discussing them. I believe that these people travel as individuals, either on business trips or on other occasions. We are tardy in acknowledging the situation. As the noble and learned Lord has just told us, we are fourth in the table of countries whose citizens commit offences in this area. I did not realise that. If I understood the noble and learned Lord correctly, he said that the three countries

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with a worse record of offences in this area have already taken steps to make this activity illegal when committed outside the normal jurisdiction of their courts.

One of the peculiarities of this kind of deplorable activity is that photographs are often taken, together with other evidence of such activities, for which, unfortunately, there is a market. That is enormously distressing because that information is published and distributed to others, who may well be encouraged to follow the same deplorable path.

I follow the noble and learned Lord in asking what is to be lost by the Government pursuing the line taken by other countries to make it difficult for people to pursue these activities. It must be a deterrent, certainly for the people I described. It may not be a deterrent to certain classes of people, but certainly it would be a deterrent to those people who seek to justify their behaviour on economic grounds. I suggest that they would certainly desist if a deterrent of this kind were in place.

I feel very strongly about the matter and will be extremely disappointed and upset if the noble Baroness, who I know feels strongly about the deplorable nature of these activities, has to voice the same objections as she did last time. It would be a disgrace for this country at this stage not to assist and follow the example of other countries which are themselves trying to put their house in order. I believe that the Philippines is considering introducing the death penalty for offences against under-age children. In Thailand also a great deal has been done, with slender resources and despite the difficulties of implementing their own laws.

We cannot be an example because others have preceded us, but surely we should follow without delay the example that has been set. Otherwise, what will the rest of the world think of us?

7.51 p.m.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, the Government should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for giving them another opportunity to end their isolation. Every noble Lord who has contributed to the debate--and the speakers embrace a wide range of experience and expertise--has argued in favour of the Bill.

The matter has already generated a share of history comparable with some of the crusades of earlier years. It has been some years since the attention of the western world was drawn to the need for legislation of this kind by the organisation known as End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT). As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, reminded us, in 1989 a horrified world included in the Convention on the Rights of the Child three articles dealing with the need to protect children.

In 1991 the United Nations Human Rights Commission appointed a special rapporteur, Professor Muntharbhorn, who recommended that states should extend their criminal jurisdiction to such acts committed abroad by their nationals. He further suggested that they might put police personnel in countries where there was known to be a threat to children, as already mentioned in the debate. In 1992 the United Nations adopted a

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programme of action to combat sexual exploitation of children and specifically included legislative measures to combat sex tourism both in the countries where the tourists go and in those from which they come. UNICEF has specifically supported that initiative. In 1991 the Council of Europe recommended to member states that they should adopt extra-territorial jurisdiction over these offences.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, spoke of growing public awareness of the matter in this country. Some years ago Anti-Slavery International, CAFOD, Christian Aid, the Jubilee Campaign and the United Kingdom section of the Save the Children Fund formed a Coalition on Child Prostitution which has been in correspondence with the Home Office. There have been campaigns by the Josephine Butler Society and the Action for Children Campaign, together with the National Council of Women and the World Federation of Methodist Women. The right reverend Prelate spoke of the initiative last year by the Church of England bishops. In addition, governments, particularly those enumerated by the noble Lord, Lord Ashbourne, have introduced extra-territorial legislation in precisely the way suggested in the Bill. Some of your Lordships referred to the gathering next year in Sweden where these matters will be discussed.

In this Parliament I raised a proposal at the Committee stage of the Bill which became the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 on 14th June 1994 and again at the Report stage on 11th July 1994. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, introduced a Private Member's Bill to the same effect on 15th March 1995. Mr. Michael Alison has presented a Bill in very similar terms in another place. Twice Home Office Ministers have received delegations, in which I participated, and there have been at least two Early Day Motions in another place attracting some 300 signatures, which is almost unheard of.

All that effort has produced at least some meeting of minds if not of wills. The Government do not deny that there is a need to protect children from this foul trade. In another place, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, the Government are giving support to a Private Member's Bill introduced by Mr. John Marshall which would facilitate the prosecution of sex tour operators for criminal conspiracy or incitement. If that Bill reaches the statute book it will offer some protection for children. However, I fear that it will not address all the problems, for two reasons already mentioned. I speak with some experience on these matters.

First, it will not be easy to prove that there has been an agreed course of conduct in this country to promote the offences abroad, which is one of the conditions in the Bill. Those who operate tours for this purpose do not spell it out in plain English in their brochures. It is done in code, by winks and nods. Those who organise the tours will tell juries that they had no knowledge of what their clients proposed to do when they arrived at their destination.

Secondly, as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, the Bill will not deal with cases where paedophiles do not join tours organised for that purpose. As a number of

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noble Lords have said, many of them make their own way to the place where they intend to commit their offences. Therefore, that Bill, however desirable, will not remove the need for the Bill before your Lordships today. However, at least the Government do not deny the need to protect children in the countries which have been mentioned.

Those of us who support the principle of the noble Lord's Bill have never denied that it is better, where possible, that offences should be prosecuted in the country where they take place and that where there are extradition arrangements in place--and there are not extradition arrangements with all the countries concerned--the best course would be to make use of them. The problem is that in many such countries too many officials are prepared to descend to corruption. Even those accused of offences and who are within their jurisdiction have been allowed to go. We know of a number of such cases.

That is not an allegation which I make from my own knowledge. It is an allegation which has rather greater authority. It is said by the governments of some of the countries which are being discussed. In Thailand, for example, senior politicians will tell you that justice is often defeated by corruption and that they would welcome it if the British Parliament were to introduce the principle of this Bill.

In our debates in 1994 the Government used two arguments. First, they suggested that to give extra-territorial jurisdiction to the courts in this country would remove the incentive for the governments in countries where the offences are committed to deal with them themselves or to apply for extradition. That argument has disappeared. Apparently even the Government now accept that the authorities in Thailand and the Philippines wish they could deal with the offences themselves.

Secondly, the Government said that they did not believe it would prove possible to mount successful prosecutions in this country because the evidence would not be available. That objection has been answered, I would have thought conclusively, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner.

We said two things in answer. First, it would be possible at no extravagant cost to station government officials in the countries concerned, as recommended by Professor Muntharbhorn. That is a practice which this country already employs, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, to obtain evidence of conspiracies to import controlled drugs into the United Kingdom, and it is one which Sweden uses for the very purpose we are discussing tonight.

Secondly, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, on that occasion pointed out that there are non-governmental organisations with considerable expertise in this field which already have a presence in the cities concerned and could make the evidence available. Father Shay Cullen, who carries out such commendable work among children in the Philippines, has assured me personally that many of the children would be prepared to give evidence and that he could arrange for their interview and their attendance here.

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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, referred to the case of Bolin in Sweden where there was a successful prosecution based partially on the evidence of the child. I have had an opportunity of studying the relevant parts of that transcript in the English translation. I have been able to read what I consider is sufficient for the purpose of forming a judgment. Of course there are differences between the procedures in the Swedish courts and those in our own courts. Some of the evidence would not have been admitted in the courts here in the same form. But I am satisfied that the gist of the evidence could have been placed before a court in England--and I assume that the same would be true in Scotland--and a jury might well have convicted. That argument is no longer tenable. If the Government resist this Bill, the problem lies not in maintaining a successful prosecution but in the lack of a political will.

The Home Office does not give up easily. On the last occasion when the Home Secretary himself was good enough to receive a delegation the argument had shifted again. The principal argument now apparently is that in this country we do not favour extra-territorial jurisdiction. We have adequate extradition arrangements and we do not like making exceptions to that rule for particular situations.

So we are back to what was said in the course of the 1994 debates which, not having been challenged since, we thought it unnecessary to repeat. I am fortified by finding myself in respectful agreement with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. The taking of extra-territorial jurisdiction over offences committed by United Kingdom nationals is not new in cases where it would address a real need. Parliament did so in 1861. Section 9 of the Offences against the Person Act of that year, which is still on the statute book, provides that homicide committed by a British subject abroad may be tried in the courts of this country. Offences relating to slavery have been triable here extraterritorially since 1873. Section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 makes torture committed by a British subject abroad triable here.

I share the puzzlement of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner. What have they to lose? I do not believe that Ministers or officials in the Home Office are more enamoured of this foul trade than your Lordships, Members of another place, organisations I have mentioned, or the people of this country. What is holding them back? The Act which put an end to the slave trade was bitterly contested. But, of course, there were many who had a financial interest in resisting it. I know of no similar financial interest here. I believe that one day people will be equally incredulous that this proposal was resisted, but they will have to devote many a PhD thesis to divining the reason. I hope this evening that the noble Baroness will be able not to resolve our puzzlement but to say that it no longer remains a viable question.

8.5 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, of his similar Bill in the last Session of Parliament did much to raise the profile of the evils of child prostitution and the sexual exploitation

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and the abuse of children abroad. I have no difficulty, indeed no hesitation whatever, in aligning myself personally with the views expressed this evening on the subject. As a result of the noble Lord's efforts, the issue received widespread publicity and brought these problems to the attention of many who might otherwise have been unaware of them. The universal reaction of Members of this House, of the other place, and of the public was one of disgust and condemnation. The Government share that disgust and, as I said, I personally deeply regret that British nationals are involved in this evil and pernicious trade.

We are all agreed that effective action needs to be taken to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, we are not all agreed on what the most effective action might be. In passing, I muse on this. As the Minister in this House I have just taken through the House the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Bill. Efforts were made, remade and redoubled again and again to ensure that the defendant was treated fairly and justly in allowing every opportunity for appeal and challenge. I have to say that, on the basis of what I have heard tonight, if the flimsy proof of evidence that has been almost advocated in the course of the debate were part of our criminal procedure and were we to treat one category of defendant differently from all other categories of defendant I should have had a very difficult time--even more difficult than the experience I have just described--taking that Bill through the House.


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