Loophole in law helps man who made girls strip

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The Independent Online

A man who persuaded two 11-year-old girls to undress in front of him will not be charged with any offence, the Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday.

A police file, including an admission from the man that he had "induced" the two girls to take off their trousers and pants, was passed to the CPS, but no offences could be found with which to charge him.

The CPS said it considered charging him with indecent assault, gross indecency, public order offences and child cruelty, but under English law his actions were not illegal.

The man, who coaches children in sport in his spare time, told the two 11-year-old girls and their 12-year-old friend they were being entered in a competition with a mail order company for a £50 prize, but had to prove they were over 15 by undressing and showing if they had pubic hair. The 12-year-old girl refused, but the two 11-year-olds did take off their clothes.

Police and CPS legal experts have been unable to find a suitable charge, partly because the man, who has two children, did not touch the girls or threaten violence.

The mother of the 12-year-old said: "If you can get pornography on a computer and you can be prosecuted for it, how can they not [prosecute] when someone is actually doing it face to face with a child?

"The police have put a lot of time and effort into this case. They were really convinced that this was going to go to court and that they would get him on some charge. They were absolutely devastated when nothing came of this."

Detective Constable Cameron McConnell, who arrested the man, said in a letter to the girls' parents that the man had "reluctantly admitted he did induce" the girls to undress in front of him. DC McConnell apologised for the "most unsatisfactory conclusion" to the case but said there was nothing else to be done.

A spokesman for the CPS said: "The evidence from the police was examined by a senior CPS lawyer and the course of conduct alleged did not fit any offences available under English law.

"We looked at a variety of potential charges and the evidence did not meet any of the requirements."

A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said: "There is clearly a loophole in the law. It needs to be plugged as a matter of great urgency."