A crucial measure to protect youngsters from falling prey to predatory paedophiles is being debated in Parliament tomorrow, Tuesday 14 January.
The proposal would give senior police officers the power to temporarily close premises where they believe grooming is taking place.
Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon has tabled an amendment to the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Police Bill, which is currently working its way through the Lords.
The measure has been proposed by Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd and Rochdale Council leader Colin Lambert.
Tony said: “We’ve seen the devastating impact that the sexual exploitation of children has had on our communities across the country. This simple, straightforward measure would give police a powerful tool to disrupt the wicked activities of men who seek to sexually abuse young people.
“It’s quite simple – if this becomes law, young people will be protected.”
Baroness Smith added: “This is a relatively simple amendment that could make a significant difference. The experts, those dealing with the issue on the ground, want this change and have provided the evidence to support it.
“This Bill is the ideal opportunity to take action quickly.
“I really hope that the Government will listen and support this change.”
The closure order proposal builds on existing legislation, being strengthened in the Bill, which allows senior police officers to step in and close non-licensed premises where there have been complaints of anti-social behaviour.
This could include takeaways, corner shops or other premises where grooming has been known to take place.
The existing powers have been successfully used in Rochdale, and across Greater Manchester, to close premises where young people have thought to be at risk of grooming. In one case, six young people who were regularly went missing from home were regularly found at a premises where it is suspected they were being groomed.
But police and councils are only able to use the power if there have been reports of anti-social behaviour at the premises. In many cases, the abuse takes place behind closed doors, with perpetrators persuading their victims they aren’t being abused at all.
Previously, Tony and Colin Lambert have lobbied the government to introduce the measure, but it was rejected by former Home Office Minister Jeremy Brown and his successor Norman Baker.
“It’s really disappointing that the Government has been unwilling to introduce this measure, but I’m really grateful that Baroness Smith has moved this amendment and hope the House of Lords will see it’s a real opportunity to help keep children safe in Rochdale, across Greater Manchester and, indeed, the entire country,” Tony added.
The amendment will be debated on Tuesday 14 January.
More information about the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is available here.