UK Politics

Downloading child abuse 'manuals' to be made illegal

Anonymous girl
Image caption Laws similar to those used for terrorist publications could be introduced

Downloading manuals containing guidance about how to groom children for sexual abuse is to become a criminal offence, the government has said.

It is unclear how many documents meant to assist paedophiles exist online or how often they are downloaded.

But the National Crime Agency has found examples during its investigations, which have included advice on grooming victims and evading capture.

The government measure is set to feature in the Queen's Speech.

Details of how the law might be changed are yet to be announced, but it is thought ministers will amend the Obscene Publications Act 1959 to close the legal loophole.

'Disgusting documents'

But the government may put in place measures similar to those that outlaw training manuals which could be used by terrorists, and have led to prison sentences of up two years in some cases.

Prime Minister David Cameron told the Sunday Times: "It's completely unacceptable that there is a loophole in the law which allows paedophiles to write and distribute these disgusting documents.

"I want to ensure we do everything we can to protect children - and that's why I am making them illegal."

The move came as it emerged that a paedophile teacher drugged and abused up to 60 boys as young as 10 at a private school in London.

US national William Vahey, 64, who taught history and geography at Southbank International School between 2009 and 2013, committed suicide last month as FBI agents closed in.

Shadow home office minister Diana Johnson said it was right that such manuals be banned, but criticised the government for not going "far enough or fast enough" to prevent online child abuse.

"The fact that online guides for abusing children are currently legal shows how ill-suited current legislation is for protecting children online," Ms Johnson said.

"At present online abuse is increasing while the number of arrests is falling."

She said the government should make online abuse a priority for the National Crime Agency, and that it should look at the broader issues of the regulation of dangerous online content.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless also said more needed to be done - and quickly - to tackle online child sex offenders.

"The government must ensure police have the investigative capacity to infiltrate and disrupt the networks of offenders hidden online, so these disgusting criminals are brought to justice," Mr Wanless said.

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