• Comprehensive and effective domestic legislation to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse – both online and offline. 
  • This must extend beyond criminalising the actions of sex offenders; it should ensure that law enforcement bodies can identify the perpetrators of such actions, protect their victims and ensure that victims’ rights are protected, and that online service providers are equipped with a clear safe harbour for reviewing and reporting online content.
  • The legislation can draw on or model existing international law, incorporating international standards and good child protection practices, and is based on the protection measures of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Why is it needed? 

  • Comprehensive and effective legislation will enable law enforcement to proactively investigate and prosecute child sex offenders and identify and protect more victims.This is particularly important for online offences where there is no evidence that contact sexual abuse has taken place to ensure all sexual offences against children can be prosecuted.
  • Crimes involving CSEA can cross geographical borders, with the offender resident in one country and the victim in another.In cases of online child sexual exploitation, the service provider is often resident in another jurisdiction. Legal approaches to preventing and tackling CSEA therefore need to be coordinated and aligned where possible, to prevent child sex offenders from concentrating their efforts in those countries where they know children may be more vulnerable.
  • The role of the internet in the viewing or sharing of child sexual abuse material means that sometimes communications data (which is the ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘how’ and ‘with whom’ of a communication but not what was written or said) is the only way to identify online child sexual exploitation offenders. Safeguards are important including independent oversight of communications data powers given to designated authorities.Authorisations will have to set out why accessing the communications data in question is necessary in a specific investigation for a particular statutory purpose, and how it is proportionate to what is sought to be achieved.

Good practice 

  • For countries that do not currently have comprehensive legislation in place, complying with international legal standards is an initial step in addressing these issues and can then support the development of comprehensive and effective national legislation.
  • The Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (also called the ‘Budapest Convention’) and Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (also called the ‘Lanzarote Convention’) serve as benchmarks for criminal law reform and wider reform of services for victims. They are effective tools for combating the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, and useful resources for informing the creation of an effective legislative framework because they contain specific definitions of offences as well as provisions requiring punishment for criminalised behaviour, allowing for more effective prosecution of offenders and services for victims. The Lanzarote Convention also provides guidance and preventive measures such as screening, recruitment and training of people working in contact with children, as well as monitoring measures for offenders and potential offenders. Please note that countries outside of the Council of Europe can accede to these Conventions.
  • Agreed metrics will enable the effectiveness of the use of legislation to be monitored and reported. Effectiveness measures should include at a minimum: conviction rates and the number of victims identified. 
  • The Luxembourg Guidelines (see Capability 21) offer practical guidance on navigating the complex lexicon of CSEA terms to be used in legislation.