Sexual abuse of children: MEPs want to criminalise "grooming" on the Internet

Parliament, European

[MEP = Member of European Parliament]

(Plenary sessions)
Justice and home affairs - 03-02-2009 - 13:26
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Parliament calls for a stop to sexual exploitation of children and child

"Grooming" and paedophile chat rooms on the Internet should be criminalised, sex crimes should be subject to an extraterritorial legislation, the EP says in a report adopted in Strasbourg. MEPs call on the EU to fund prevention programmes from its general budget. By adopting the report with 591 votes in favour, 2 against and 6
abstentions, MEPs call for the criminalisation of "all types of sexual abuse of children" including "grooming." (the action of soliciting children for sexual purposes).

Providers of Internet chat rooms and forums where paedophile activities take place should be criminalised. Those whose work involves regular contact with children should also have the obligation to report situations where abuse is suspected, MEPs say. Applicants to certain posts working with children should also undergo criminal records check.

The EU should fund prevention programmes

The European Parliament called on the European Commission to revise the framework decision as to create national management systems for sex offenders including risk assessment and intervention programmes and therapies to minimise the risk of repeated offenses. Such programmes could be funded from the EU's general budget, members say.

They also call on the Member states to encourage the victims of sexual exploitation to file criminal and civil claims in the national courts against sex offenders.

Advertisements encouraging sexual abuse towards children should be prohibited, and child sex tourism should be considered a crime in all Member States. Moreover, EU citizens who commit a sex crime outside the EU should be subject to uniform extraterritorial criminal legislation.

MEPs also underline that seven member states have still not signed the Council of Europe convention on this issue, and eight have not ratified the optional protocol on the UN convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

REF. : 20090203IPR48104

Texts adopted
Tuesday, 3 February 2009 - Strasbourg Provisional edition
Combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography
P6_TA-PROV(2009)0040 A6-0012/2009

European Parliament recommendation of 3 February 2009 to the Council on
combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography

The European Parliament ,

  • having regard to the proposal for a recommendation to the Council by Roberta Angelilli on behalf of the UEN Group on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (B6-0216/2008),
  • having regard to Article 24 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which enshrines children's right to protection and care,
  • having regard to Article 34 of UN Convention of 20 November 1989 on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol thereto of 25 May 2000 on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography ("the Optional Protocol"),
  • having regard to Council Framework Decision 2004/68/JHA of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography(1) ("the Framework Decision"),
  • having regard to the report from the Commission of 16 November 2007 based on Article 12 of the Council Framework Decision of 22 December 2003 on combating the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography (COM(2007)0716) ("the Commission Report"),
  • having regard to the Council of Europe Convention of 13 July 2007 on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse ("the CoE Convention"),
  • having regard to its resolution of 16 January 2008: Towards an EU strategy on the rights of the child(2),
  • having regard to the findings of the Rio de Janeiro Pact to Prevent and Stop Sexual Exploitation of Children" agreed on 25-28 November 2008 at the III World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents,
  • having regard to Rule 114(3) of its Rules of Procedure,
  • having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (A6-0012/2009),

A. whereas the CoE Convention signed by twenty EU Member States is the first international legal instrument to categorise the various forms of sexual abuse of children as criminal offences, including such abuse, perpetrated inter alia with the use of force, coercion or threats, even within the family,

B. whereas seven Member States have still not signed the CoE Convention and eight Member States have still not ratified the Optional Protocol,

C. whereas children make a constantly growing use of new technologies and whereas an increasingly significant part of the social life of children and young people takes place online where continually evolving advanced technologies and communication tools are used; whereas as a consequence the Internet is increasingly being used by potential and actual sex offenders for preparing the sexual abuse of children, in particular through grooming and child pornography,

1. Addresses the following recommendations to the Council:

a) encourage those Member States which have not already done so to sign, ratify and implement all relevant international conventions, first of all the CoE Convention, as it provides for additional protection of children's rights beyond the Framework Decision, but also the Optional Protocol;

b) assist Member States in improving their legislation as well as the extraterritorial cooperation among Member States in this field; call for sexual crimes against children under the age of 18 always to be classified throughout the EU as exploitation of minors, in accordance with Parliament's above-mentioned resolution of 16 January 2008;

c) enable Member States to explicitly exclude the double criminality requirement for establishing jurisdiction for the offences established in accordance with the Framework Decision;

d) urge Member States to criminalise all types of sexual abuse of children;

Implementation of the Framework Decision

e) assist Member States that have not yet entirely implemented the Framework Decision in implementing it as soon as possible; in particular, emphasis should be placed on adopting legislation for the definition of child pornography as set out in
Article 1(b) of the Framework Decision, by providing mechanisms for the protection of victims, and by implementing Article 8(1)(b) of the Framework Decision, which deals with extraterritorial jurisdiction (sex tourism);

f) call for effective protection against sexual exploitation of children by regarding child sex tourism as a crime in all Member States; call for all EU citizens who commit a sex crime against children in any country within or outside the EU to be subject to uniform extraterritorial criminal legislation applicable throughout the EU;

g) improve, in cooperation with the Commission and Members States, the monitoring of the implementation of the Framework Decision in order to obtain timely and complete information through the creation of mechanisms that would enable Member States to list relevant information, including the definitions of crimes, in appropriate thematic fields, thus simplifying the comparison of Member States' judicial systems;

h) encourage the Member States to report in detail on the state of cross-border cooperation, in particular if cooperation with NGOs is provided for by law or occurs in practice;

i) encourage the Member States to report on the destination of assets seized in the context of a proven case of child prostitution or child pornography;

Revision of the Framework Decision

j) revise the Framework Decision on the basis of the proposal submitted by the Council Presidency, any other Member State or alternatively by the Commission, thus raising the level of protection to at least the level provided by the CoE Convention and by tightening the focus on abuses related to the Internet and other communication technologies; recommends that the proposal includes the following

  • creation of national management systems for sex offenders that would include risk assessment, as well as intervention programmes to prevent or minimise the risk of repeat offences, and therapies available to sex offenders; Such intervention programmes and voluntary therapy could be funded from the general budget of the EU to ensure that the children's welfare is the focal point throughout the EU;
  • strengthening of the human rights-based and victim-centred approach;
  • criminalisation of grooming (soliciting children for sexual purposes) and the use of a definition of grooming based on Article 23 of the CoE Convention;
  • criminalisation of engaging in sexual activities with an individual below the age of 18, even when he or she is above the age of consent, where use is made of coercion, force or threats, or abuse is made of a recognised position of trust, authority or influence over the child, including within the family, or abuse is made of a particularly vulnerable situation of the child, notably because of a mental or physical disability or a situation of dependence, or where money or other forms of remuneration or consideration is given as payment in exchange for the child engaging in sexual activities;
  • criminalisation of coercing a child into a forced marriage;
  • criminalisation of knowingly attending pornographic performances involving children and intentionally causing children to witness sexual abuse or activities;
  • criminalisation of providers of paedophile chat rooms or Internet paedophile fora;
  • measures to ensure that the Member States, in the context of a comprehensive strategy of international diplomatic, administrative and law enforcement cooperation, take appropriate steps to have illegal child abuse materials taken offline at source, thereby giving victims maximum protection, and work with Internet providers to disable websites which are used to commit, or to advertise the possibility of committing, offences established in accordance with the Framework Decision;
  • supporting the Commission's efforts in cooperation with the major credit card companies to investigate whether it is technically feasible to close down or otherwise obstruct the Internet-based payment system for websites involved in the sale over the Internet of child pornography; also encouraging other economic players, such as banks, bureaux de change, Internet providers and search engine companies, to take an active part in efforts to combat child pornography and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation of children;
  • encouraging Member States to provide parents with easily manageable programmes allowing them to block children's access to pornographic websites;
  • adopt measures in order to encourage the victims of sexual exploitation to file criminal and civil claims in the national courts against sex offenders;
  • revision of Article 5(3) of the Framework Decision, which provides only a minimal basis for preventing convicted sex offenders from gaining access to children through employment or voluntary activities involving regular contact with children, inter alia by considering an obligation of Member States to ensure that applicants to certain posts working with children undergo criminal records checks, including setting up clear rules or guidelines for employers on their obligations in this regard;
  • facilitating international cooperation by the use of the instruments provided for by Article 38 of the CoE Convention;
  • obligation for those whose work involves regular contact with children to report situations where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting abuse;
  • improving the identification of abused children through training of personnel having regular contact with them and by training law enforcement personnel who might have contact with abused children;
  • ensuring the strongest protection of children in court proceedings as well as during investigations, in order to avoid trauma by providing for specific arrangements on the way of collecting evidence from child victims;
  • prohibiting advertisements encouraging the commission of offences established in accordance with the Framework Decision;
  • criminalisation of the instigation, aiding, abetting and attempting of all the offences established in accordance with the Framework Decision;
  • encouraging Member States to take every necessary measure to prevent discrimination against the victims of child abuse and their stigmatisation,
  • expand the catalogue of aggravating circumstances in determining the sanctions in relation to offences established by the Framework Decision with a list of aggravating circumstances as established by Article 28 of the CoE Convention;
  • establish the exploitation of the superior position of an offender (in family, in education, in professional relations, etc.) as an aggravating circumstance;

k) encourage all Member States to set up the Missing Child Alert System to improve cooperation at European level;

l) set up together with the Member States and the Commission an action programme which would be aimed at providing the children who were identified as being sexually abused in pornographic images with adequate protection and support;

2. Instructs its President to forward this recommendation to the
Council, and, for information, to the Commission and to the Members States.

(1) OJ L 13, 20.1.2004, p. 44.
(2) Texts adopted, P6_TA(2008)0012.
Last updated: 4 February 2009