Britain shares details on sex tourists

A groundbreaking agreement between Britain and the Philippines to exchange intelligence on child sex offenders was signed in Manila yesterday, and is due to be extended to other countries on the "international paedophile circuit".

The memorandum of understanding, signed by the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, is the first of its kind in the world, and has been welcomed by child protection groups at home and abroad. Similar bilateral agreements are being considered with countries such as Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and others in Latin America visited by British and European child sex tourists.

British police officers will go to Thailand to train police on child sex investigations. This follows training in the Philippines by two officers from Durham.

The proposed extension of intelligence gathering with other countries was part of a campaign against the abuse and exploitation of children, said the Foreign Office.

New legislation comes into force tomorrow enabling British courts to try cases of British citizens alleged to have taken part in paedophile acts abroad.

Yesterday, at a Manila centre for street children, Mr Cook described the sexual exploitation of children as an unforgivable crime. He said the message of the new agreement was three-fold: to stop the sex tourist trade, to catch criminals who abuse children and to help victims return to normal life.

Unicef estimates there are 60,000 child prostitutes in the Philippines. Two of the three foreigners convicted for child abuse in the Philippines have been British. Michael Clarke was jailed for 16 years for organising sex tours and Steven Mitchell received 17 years after being found guilty of sexual acts with minors.

Father Shay Cullen, a campaigner against child sex tourism in the Philippines, warned that corruption in the country would make the new agreement difficult to implement. He said: "Local government is usually the problem because many local government officials have vested interests in the sex industry."