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Baroness Blatch: Amendments tabled by all Members of the Committee are certainly well intentioned. Indeed, it is not my intention to knock them. However, I believe that these amendments would create a paedophile's charter; and I say so with some feeling. Perhaps I may explain why. Many have

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supported the Bill because it will achieve a great deal as regards protecting children from sexual abuse—an objective that we all applaud. However, I seem to be on my own in the Chamber in seeing protection for children as being absolutely paramount. It is disappointing that the Government are seeking to amend their own Bill in a way which will reduce that protection.

I understand the motives of the Government and others, including my noble friend Lady Noakes, in proposing amendments relating to sex education. They want to protect those people who are honestly working with young people and doing a job that we all applaud—a job that, sometimes, parents will not do. But this is a totally catch-all set of amendments.

Government Amendment No. 74 gives a blanket exemption from Clause 15 if a person can make a case that he was protecting the child from sexually transmitted infection, protecting the physical safety of the child or preventing the child becoming pregnant. That becomes a total defence. Anyone can say, "That is what I was doing". They do not have to be a professional, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said. Anyone can say, "I was dealing with a sexual difficulty", or, "I was dealing with sex education in some way".

Therefore, an act that was clearly facilitating the Clause 13 offence of causing a child to watch a sexual act could escape prosecution if the perpetrator claimed to be protecting the child. He could be facilitating an adult who acts on the words of Clause 13,

    "for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification",

and causing a child,

    "to watch a third person engaging in an activity, or to look at a photograph . . . of a person engaging in an activity",

that is sexual.

It is extraordinary that the Government should be trying to create such a broad exception. There is no requirement that the person be a doctor or a nurse. The defence is effectively available to anyone who claims that he or she is giving sex education or giving advice on contraception or sexual health. It even covers facilitating actual sexual activity between an adult and a child, under Clause 9, or facilitating a person who engages in sexual activity in the presence of a child, under Clause 12. The mind boggles at that.

What kind of sex education necessitates facilitating sexual activity in the presence of a child? What kind of sex videos are to be shown to young people which require special exemption from prosecution? It would not matter how pornographic the video was. Clause 15 gives a blanket exemption to the person who allows someone to show a video to a child so long as the person can make out a case that he or she acted to promote safer sex under Clause 15(1B)(a) and (c).

The Government appear to have drafted the amendment to give an exemption to a person of any age, including those under the age of 18. Therefore, why is it necessary for children to have this special exemption from Clauses 8 to 14 for the purposes of sex education?

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Amendment No. 75 stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Noakes. It has a similar goal. It seeks to amend Clause 15 to state:

    "Nothing done only for the purposes of providing sex education, sexual health advice or contraceptive services shall be treated as an offence".

Anyone saying that that is what they were doing has a defence for all kinds of dreadful activities that we have been describing today. That very broad wording would exempt even more behaviour from the ambit of Clause 15. A defendant need claim only that sex education was his "purpose" in order to escape conviction. That is an even easier test than that in government Amendment No. 74.

Amendment No. 78 stands in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. It is less broad, but still it would present a potential defence to a paedophile who gets a sexual thrill from talking to children about sex or showing them books or photographs on the subject.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. Why can doing something in the child's best interests be a paedophile offence?

Baroness Blatch: Because that is what the person could claim to be doing. I have some examples which I shall turn to in a minute. A person befriending the family or befriending the young person could say to the parents, "Your child is sexually confused. You allow me to work with your child and I will help them with their sexual confusion". Their motive could be completely dishonourable but they would have a defence, in law, because of the way in which these amendments would work.

Of course, no one wants to see an adult who acts in the genuine best interests of a child—the point just made by the noble Baroness—convicted of a child sex offence with all that that entails. Any professional teacher taking a sex education lesson would never need any immunity from prosecution, such as that offered by the amendment. No sensible court would entertain such a case, let alone convict.

I ask myself: why would any professional person want to facilitate activity in front of a child which is so sexually explicit that for any ordinary person it would constitute a criminal offence? Surely, questions must be asked about whether such an activity is appropriate in the first place.

Those who believe that legitimate sex education is in danger of becoming criminalised by Clause 15 have fears and concerns which are unfounded. I simply cannot imagine that the police would entertain a case against a respectable professional acting in the normal course of his employment. I certainly cannot imagine a court convicting such a person. I should like to think that some action could be taken against the Marie Stopes clinic which is inviting young people to contact it on the Internet to receive free condoms—at the age of 11, 12 and 13. That is inappropriate and even

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parents are not in a position to control that kind of offence. But the clinic would have complete exemption under these amendments.

If this special exemption from sexual offences is granted, paedophiles will exploit it as a loophole. We all know that they infiltrate scout and youth groups and work with children with disabilities. They are the most clever, manipulative people. These provisions, allowing them to say that they were helping a person with their sexual health or their sexual education or helping them through the difficult pubescent years, would hand them a defence on a plate.

Paedophiles commonly seek to get themselves into positions where they are responsible for young people. A paedophile who gets a thrill from talking about sex to young people could rely on the defence provided by these amendments. It is well known that paedophiles seek to break down the resistance of young people by talking about sexual activity or by facilitating someone who shows them pornographic images. It is known that paedophiles seek to put themselves in positions of responsibility over young people. This amendment provides a strong incentive for a paedophile to take up employment in the field of sex education.

Of course, there are checks on those who take up positions with young people. But those checks are completely useless if the paedophile's activities are undiscovered. In many cases, they go undiscovered for a very long time. At the primary school that my children attended, one young girl was abused over a very long period because the teachers were afraid to say anything. When the parents came together and the local policeman went into the school and confronted the headmaster, it was discovered that a young girl had been taken into the stock cupboard over a period. The defendant received only a fine. The defendant was the headmaster. When he went to court, his defence was that the child needed support because the child was having difficulties at home. That example is not exactly the same and that person would not be caught by these amendments. But the defendant need only say that he was helping the child with her sex education and that would be a defence.

The government amendment removes the protection of the criminal law from young people. Parents have a right to know why this is thought to be necessary. If such exemption was ever needed, surely it could be justified only for a qualified medical professional, such as a doctor. Under the amendment, a paedophile who worked as a teacher could satisfy the condition in subsection (1A) by saying, "I would much rather the children in my class didn't have sex with anyone. But, since you can't stop them, I just try to make sure that, whatever they do, they do it safely. That is why I talk so explicitly about sex. I tell them to be careful. What more can you do?"

Teachers have never needed special exemptions from sex offences with children. To suggest that this is necessary calls into question the very activities which are proposed. Sex education carried out by professional people does not need to be exempt from a charge of arranging or facilitating a child sex offence. The

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amendment is unnecessary and an insult to the professionalism of those who work with young people and the good sense of the police, the prosecutors and the courts.

Government Amendment No. 375 relates to aiding, abetting and counselling the commission of sexual offences against children. It uses the same formulation to do with protecting the child from sexually transmitted infections, physical harm or pregnancy.

The same convoluted form of words is used in Amendment No. 74, which states,

    "he arranges or facilitates something that he believes another person will do, but that he does not intend to do or intend another person to do".

As long as the defendant can say that he did what he did because "children will have sex whether we like it or not" and that he was acting to provide sex education, the amendment provides a defence.

It applies to the non-consensual offences: the rape of a child under 13 in Clause 2; the assault of a child under 13 by penetration in Clause 4; the sexual assault of a child under 13 in Clause 6. It applies also to Clause 9, sexual activity with a child; and, where the victim is under 16, to Clause 18, abuse of a position of trust. It also applies to Clause 28, familial child sex; to Clause 33, sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder or learning disability; and to other offences.

It is astonishing that anything which genuinely amounts to aiding and abetting such offences should escape prosecution. Once again, what kind of sex education is envisaged? It depresses me that I am the only person speaking up for children in this area because it is where entrapment and activities of this kind can take place.

For the benefit of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, I shall quickly name some people. A trainee church minister was gaoled for 12 months. The man's name was Gregory—so it is in the public domain anyway—and the court heard that his duties as a trainee minister at Kings Heath Baptist Church, Northampton, included giving a course of sex education lessons to a youth fellowship entitled Faith and Sexuality— Let It Be Real. That case ended up in the courts. Under the amendment the offender would have a defence because he was dealing with the sex education of young people.

I could go on but I have spoken for long enough. If the Committee requires further examples, I have cutting after cutting after cutting in which people profess to be dealing with sex education, sexual confusion, the sexual problems of young teenagers—all of whom, under the amendment, would have a defence. It is outrageous that we should hand such a defence to people who are genuinely looking to obtain self-gratification from our young people.

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