A victim of historical child sexual abuse says new legislation allowing for harsher sentences for paedophiles is now ‘fit for purpose’.
Suspects in sex offence cases will also be given anonymity until conviction under another provision of the Act, which is on target to be introduced by the end of 2023.
The Sex Offences and Obscene Publications Act was brought in following a brave campaign by two victims of child sex abuse.
Lisa Taylor and Sadie Sanders courageously waived their right to anonymity to take a public stand against the ‘wholly inadequate’ sentences handed down to convicted paedophiles.
They took their petition to the government, supported by the then Minister of Home Affairs Juan Watterson.
Lisa said the changes made to sexual offences legislation had now made it ‘fit for purpose’.
She said: ‘We had overwhelming island support.
‘Our campaign caused a lot of conversation around sexual abuse at the time, with it proving to be a very emotive topic that really got our island talking about what was a taboo subject.’
Some parts of the Act have already been implemented.
Automatic pardons given to those convicted of historical homosexual offences came into effect in June last year.
Home Affairs Minister Jane Poole-Wilson said the existing laws governing sexual offences and obscene publications were outdated.
She said the Act ‘updates and modernises the sexual offences framework’, increasing the maximum sentence tariff in a number of areas and creating certain new offences committed using technology.
The Minister said the aim is to have the legislation come into force in full in the fourth quarter of this year.
The new Act, however, does not include a ‘Sarah’s Law’, which was launched across in response to the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne in July 2000.
This disclosure scheme allows parents to ask the police if someone with access to their child has a record for child sexual offences.
But the DHA believes this would not be appropriate in the island and a pro-active risk-based approach has been adopted instead.
Section 140 of the Act that gives automatic anonymity to suspects in sex offence cases provoked passionate debate both in Legislative Council and in the wider island media.
The DHA says on a small island there can be serious long-term repercussions for anyone implicated in a sexual offence.
But Media Isle of Man has argued it could lead to many cases going unreported.
The anonymity clause only applies to the Manx media, and the same case could be covered without restriction in the UK press.
Given the risk of ‘jigsaw identification’, this could lead to our not risking covering a case at all for fear missing details could be reported elsewhere.
The Bill does include a ‘backstop’, clause 144, that allows a judge to lift the naming ban if it is judged to be ‘substantial and unreasonable’ restriction on the reporting of proceedings.
The DHA is planning to issue guidance to the media to explain the significant impact the new anonymity provisions will have on reporting.