Britain 'ignores child sex tourism'

British paedophiles abuse children abroad, and too little is being done to prevent the offences, says report
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The Independent Online

Children are being put at risk by the Government's failure to deal with British paedophiles overseas, according to a new report being published today.

Sex offenders are able to travel the world abusing children virtually unchecked, according to the report, which accuses Britain of turning a blind eye to the activities of child molesters abroad. While British authorities await the return on Tuesday of convicted paedophile Gary Glitter after his release from prison in Vietnam, the report from Ecpat (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes) accuses the Government of ignoring scores of similar offenders who are abusing children in countries that are often unable to police their activities.

It concludes that, despite increased reporting of sex offenders who are arrested for child abuse abroad, the Government has failed to combat child sex tourism. The report states there is a "clear pattern with repeat offenders travelling from country to country and flagrantly avoiding the stringent sex offender management mechanisms in the UK".

Although Glitter will be met by police on his return to Britain and put on the sex offenders' register, many other paedophiles remain abroad with little or no checks on their activities, according to Ecpat, which represents Britain's biggest children's charities. In one case, a sex offender was able to return to the UK and escape arrest despite an Interpol warrant for his capture.

Although Britain has laws to prosecute for offences committed abroad, these have been used in only a handful of sex tourism cases during the past decade and none since 2005. Yet in the past two years alone, more than 25 Britons have been arrested by foreign police for child sex offences, 15 of which were in Thailand.

While thousands of football hooligans are subject to travel bans, only five foreign travel orders have ever been issued against known sex offenders. More joint investigations are needed, as well as more agreements with countries to make it easier to bring sex offenders back to the UK, say campaigners. "The Government is turning a blind eye to the activities of British sex offenders abroad," said Christine Beddoe, author of the Ecpat report.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre admitted: "Britons who travel abroad to abuse children in the belief that they can evade justice are a UK problem, and we have a duty to protect every child, everywhere.

The Government announced yesterday that it is to speed up its plans to close a loophole that requires paedophiles to tell police their travel plans only if they are going abroad for more than three days. A Home Office spokesperson said: "From the autumn, we also intend to make registered sex offenders notify the police of any travel abroad."

Offenders overseas

John Maurice Praill, 77, was arrested in Thailand in March for abusing an eight-year-old boy and released on bail. He has been arrested several times for similar offences. Campaigners say that the Government must control the activities abroad of paedophiles such as Praill and Gary Glitter.