Labour’s call over criminal records of child sex exploitation victims

Child sexual exploitation victims should no longer be forced to reveal convictions linked to their abuse, Labour have argued.

Shadow home office minister Louise Haigh said in the Commons the “punitive rules” mean they “cannot escape their past as victims”, calling the procedure “unjust”.

Asking an Urgent Question, Ms Haigh added: “But these victims are not only forced to live with their trauma, but convictions linked to their sexual exploitation in childhood.

“They are blighted by an obligation to disclose previous convictions linked to past abuse, forced to tell employers and even local PTAs about past convictions.”

Ms Haigh referenced the campaigner and survivor of child sexual exploitation (CSE) Sammy Woodhouse, who has two convictions linked to her abuse.

She asked the Government to look at enacting a proposal called “Sammy’s Law”, which would allow victims to have their criminal records “automatically reviewed and crimes associated with their grooming removed”.

The Labour frontbencher asked what the position on records disclosure for survivors was.

Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said due to an ongoing case at the Supreme Court on this issue, she was “not able to comment on individual cases”.

She went on to say that the Government was considering the judgment “very carefully”, adding: “I am not in a position sadly to comment on other aspects of the Urgent Question.”

Ms Atkins said: “The criminal record disclosure scheme seeks to strike a balance between safeguarding children and enabling vulnerable individuals to put their offending behind them.”

And she said it “applies to only certain jobs that are protected, and it is for employers to judge a person’s suitability for a role once they are armed with the facts”.

Labour’s John Spellar (Warley) said: “It’s for the employer to decide and that’s frankly just not good enough. It shows the failure in the Home Office to recognise the fundamental flaws both in policy and in implementation of the disclosure and barring scheme.

“We have to allow people, particularly victims of CSE to rebuild their lives. So why won’t she dump the dogma, sort out the faulty DBS before it blights even more lives?”

Labour’s Sarah Champion (Rotherham) said: “Will the minister please give guidance to police, the judges and CPS to consider holistically when a child is presented with a criminal activity that it could be part of grooming.”

Labour’s John Mann (Bassetlaw) said: “There’s a handful of people whose views should be forgotten, those increasing number of commentators and politicians suggesting that this is a waste of money.”

Ms Atkins noted: “The choice of language that we use is vitally important and I make it absolutely clear that it is the policy of this Government that we will always be on the side of victims of child sexual abuse and we will always seek to secure justice for them”.

Tory MP Boris Johnson was last week urged to apologise to victims of child abuse after claiming millions of pounds of police funding is being “spaffed up the wall” investigating historic allegations.

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