Sexual grooming is the process used by a person with a sexual interest in children to build an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.

Grooming can be committed by a male or female, and a child can be groomed online or face-to-face, and by a stranger or by someone they already know. It is often carefully planned and can take place over weeks, months or years, with the ultimate goal of meeting the child for committing a sex offence.

Any communication with a child for the purpose of sexually abusing them is legally considered to be grooming and is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Section 14

It is an offence to arrange a meeting, or facilitate a meeting, with a child under the age of 16 with the intent of sexually abusing the child or intending another person to sexually abuse them. If you are found guilty in the Magistrates Court you face up to six-months imprisonment and/or a fine. If convicted in the Crown Court, conviction on indictment, the maximum prison sentence is 14 years.

Section 15

It is a criminal offence to meet a child following the grooming process. This offence is committed when a person over the age of 18 has met or communicated with someone on more than one occasion, and intentionally meets them, arranges to meet them in any part of the world or travels with the intention of meeting them in any part of the world. The offence is committed if the victim is under 16 or if the offender does not reasonably believe that the victim is 16 or over. If you are found guilty in the Magistrates court you face up to six-months imprisonment and/or a fine, and if convicted in the Crown Court, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.

In April 2017, sexual communication with a child was made an offence. Groomers who target children through mobile phones, emails, letters or social media to communicate sexually or intended to elicit a sexual response face two years in prison, and face being placed on the sex offenders register.

Anyone convicted of a grooming offence is added to the sex offenders register and is required to notify the police of certain details, either for a certain amount of time or for life. A failure to comply with the terms of the register is a serious criminal offence for which a person will be prosecuted and could face a prison sentence.

No child under the age of 13 can ever consent to sexual activity. This means that if a child under 13 is effectively groomed and sex takes place as a result, this is automatically classified as rape and carries a maximum life sentence.

If you are accused of sexual grooming it is crucial that you are represented by someone who is an expert in this complex and serious area of law. The consequences of being charged with sexual grooming are life changing, with imprisonment likely, being added to the sex offenders register and the future risk of receiving a sexual harm prevention order. It is vital that your future is not left in the hands of a general criminal defence lawyer who may not have the expertise or experience in dealing with these matters. At Lawtons, we have the experience and expertise and will do everything in our professional power to put forward your case in a proper and best way to ensure that you get the best outcome possible in the circumstances wherever the case may be.