New ‘disruption orders’ would target those grooming children
The Local Government Association (LGA), the body which represents local authorities in England and Wales, is seeking the introduction of so-called ‘disruption orders’. The orders, if they are introduced will be a type of banning order aimed at stopping people from grooming children for sex.
The LGA is claiming that children are being left at greater risk because officials are powerless to intervene over grooming – because often no recognised crime has been committed – and are calling on the government to take action to help them combat this practice.
Grooming children involves various different behaviours designed to fool children into entering exploitative situations. Paedophiles set up personal relationships with children and ply them with gifts, attention and friendship. They then go on to form sexual relations once the trust has been built up. Those exploiting the child manipulate them using financial superiority, intellect, gender and age.
Disruption orders would give social services and the police a way to intervene in cases where grooming is suspected, either by parents or the authorities themselves, but where there is insufficient evidence to bring a criminal prosecution without a child already being harmed. The aim of disruption orders is to target predatory men who are suspected of grooming and allow the authorities to put a safe space between them and the child victims.
Councils want these orders to work in a similar fashion to Anti-Social Behaviour Orders or Domestic Violence Protection Orders but they would be specifically tailored to fight the grooming of children. Disruption orders will differ from existing Sexual Risk Orders because they can be issued ex parte by a court on the application of local authorities (and other concerned parties such as the NHS and schools). This means that no notice need be given to the adult doing the grooming prior to seeking the order. The authorities would need to demonstrate their concerns are enough to warrant a magistrate or judge granting such an order, but victims would not be required to appear in court when an application for an order is heard.
A disruption order would ban the suspect from grooming children by prohibiting certain specified activities, such as loitering outside schools and shopping malls, for a fixed period of time. Any breach of the order will be treated as criminal offence.