Child Sexual Abuse

Meeting: 
MQT on 2014-10-22
Session date: 
October 22, 2014
Reference: 
2014/3662
Question By: 
Fiona Twycross
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor
Category: 

Question

Recently much public attention has been paid to the fact that Hotels and B&Bs have no protection obligations to children staying on their premises, specifically for example, they are not required to report child sexual abuse if they suspect it is happening on their premises. What representations are you making, in your capacity as Head of MOPAC, to the Government to lobby for a change to protection obligations?

Supplementary Questions: 

Answer

Answer for Child Sexual Abuse

Answer for Child Sexual Abuse

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  We have discussed this a couple of times.  What is absolutely right, and I completely agree with you, is that anybody who is aware of a crime of the type you are describing of possible child abuse on their premises or whatever should report it.  In my view, they have an absolute legal obligation already to report it.  There is lots of statute on aiding and abetting and that kind of thing, which means that accommodation providers such as hotels or bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs), if they know that abuse or grooming is taking place on their premises, should be able to report it.  

The question that you are digging into is whether we should be following the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) which wants a particular new offence of failing to report abuse.  We are looking into that.  We are trying to see whether that makes legal sense in view of the statute that already exists.  

We have, as you know, already Operation Make Safe and people who might come into contact with this kind of appalling stuff - hotel staff, cab drivers, those sorts of people - are aware of the issues and are aware of their duties to report what they have become aware of.  

Fiona Twycross AM:  The specific reason I wanted to raise it was because of some of the information coming out of recent cases of child grooming in Rochdale, Kirklees and elsewhere, which have actually highlighted hotels and B&Bs as being a particular issue.  You mentioned the lack of specific legal duty but currently hotels do not have a specific legal responsibility to register anyone on their premises who is under 16.  Also, they do not need a specific licence to operate unless they are licensed to sell alcohol.  They have no specific duty, as mentioned, to report suspected child abuse. 

In Kirklees, police have actually undertaken to visit every hotel in the area and to inform hotel owners of the signs to watch out for which may indicate that child sex abuse is taking place on their premises.  Obviously, this would be a massive undertaking in London where we have thousands of such premises, but actually the very number of premises makes this an issue that needs to be considered. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Difficult, yes. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  I appreciate you are aware of the NSPCC recommendations.  I wanted to make sure you were aware of what I view as quite a sensible approach recommended by Lisa Nandy, MP, who has requested a cross-departmental working group to look into this issue specifically.  She is proposing that representatives from the hotel industry, child protection experts and others should be formed to identify ways in which the law, practice and regulation could be strengthened. 

Given I am sure you agree with me that we should take every action possible to ensure prevention of child abuse, will you write to the Home Secretary urging her to establish a group?  I understand that she is slightly reluctant to do so.  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I will certainly take advice on that and have a look at that.  It is very, very important that people are aware of these issues.   

The MPS puts quite a lot of money into training people to recognise signs of child sexual abuse and exploitation.  We have trained 3,000 staff to recognise this.  We also provide funds through the London Crime Prevention Fund and we have a pilot study in five London boroughs - in Croydon, Hackney, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea and Waltham Forest - to focus on child sexual exploitation.  

I will look at the proposed letter.  If you would be kind enough to send it through to me, we will study it and see what use we can be. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.  

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  One must be just clear.  It may be that it is decided that the existing statute is good enough and what we need to do is make people aware of their legal responsibilities. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  This is where a working group would be quite useful.  That could actually look into whether it was just the application of existing law or whether something new was required as well.  

It has also occurred to me that because of your responsibility for policing - and obviously you have MOPAC- something that you could look at is whether it would be appropriate for us to have something specific from MOPAC in terms of a working group that would look specifically at this issue for London. 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I am sure that is a good subject for MOPAC work and I will ask Stephen Greenhalgh [Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime] to have a look at it. 

Fiona Twycross AM:  Thank you.