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Nanette Milne, 11/02/2004

Following Education Minister Peter Peacock’s visit to Edinburgh today to highlight the dangers of the internet, Northeast MSP Nanette Milne welcomed moves to protect families in the Northeast, saying:

"Increasing awareness of the potential dangers of children using the internet is an issue which I and other Northeast Tories have been actively pursuing since last August. I therefore very much welcome the launch of the Executive’s awareness campaign today.

"However, with Internet chat rooms and mobile phones becoming a prime method for paedophiles to target children for the purpose of sexual grooming, what is desperately required now is legislation. The Westminster Sexual Offences Bill introduces a new offence of child grooming which carries a ten year penalty. Under the new grooming offence it will be illegal for adults to meet or arrange to meet someone under 16 to engage in sexual activity. The offence however will apply in England and Wales but not in Scotland.

"My colleagues and I have therefore, been pressing the Scottish Executive since last August to ensure we have the same protection for children in Scotland as elsewhere in the UK. Otherwise there is a very real danger that a gap in provision here could encourage paedophiles to target children in Scotland.

"Last December the First Minister gave an assurance that he would bring forward legislation to make sexual grooming and offence in Scotland. My colleague Margaret Mitchell MSP wrote to Mr McConnell in January asking him how and when this would be taking place. Today she received a reply from Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, confirming that the Executive is still trying to decide the best legislative route to introduce the new offence. If the worst comes to the worst and the Scottish Executive continues to do nothing, then the Conservatives will table an amendment to the Antisocial Behaviour Bill, to ensure that families in the Northeast are protected by closing this potential loophole.”

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