Although the protection of children is always a laudable aim, we need to be very cautious in how this offence is developed.
It has the potential to be so broad as to include sexual chat between teenagers, needlessly criminalising growing young adults, and so narrow as to add nothing that isn’t already covered by existing legislation.
Perhaps the most realistic model offence is defined under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 as it assumes the activity will be centred on communications based on online or mobile phone technology.
Here, the offence is committed by sending a message over a public electronic communications that is deemed “grossly offensive” or of an “indecent, obscene or menacing character”.
But by the time you’re in a serious relationship, there are certain subjects you absolutely must discuss if you’re going to continue to build a healthy partnership.Maybe you two have already done the deed a million times.That doesn’t necessarily mean you know exactly what your partner wants and likes in bed, and it's probably a good idea to find out.For sections 15 and 10 of the the Sexual Offences Act a child is someone under 16 years old, but for offences relating to child abuse images, a child is defined as being younger than 18.Equally important is the definition of adult: the same Act defines adults as being over 18, while there is no such age restriction for offences dealing with child abuse image.The concern, something already raised, is that the criminalisation of children for “sexting”, where young people have sent partially clothed images of themselves to their peers.Who will judge what is and is not a “sexual message”?The Sexual Offences Act Section 15 neatly sidesteps this question by stating that the communication with the child need not be sexual – the crux of the offence is the intention of the offender to meet the child.Will “sexual” be objectively assessed, or will the sender’s motivations be paramount?The announcement raises many questions: what is the government looking to criminalise: all sexual communication with children?Or specifically messages where the adult is soliciting sexual images?