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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children Outside the United Kingdom Phase 2 Investigation Report

C.2: The legal framework

2. Since 1 September 1997, it has been possible to prosecute UK nationals and residents in England and Wales for alleged child sexual offences committed overseas.

3. Originally, section 72 could only be used in relation to alleged sexual offences against children under 16 years old. It was also only triggered if the act in question was an offence both in the UK[1] and in the country in which the act took place.[2]

4. The current version of section 72, in effect since July 2008, applies more widely. It applies to alleged offences against children aged under 18 (unless the offence under the law of the UK can only be committed against a person under the age of 16).[3] The alleged abuse also now only needs to be an offence here (not in the country in which it took place) in respect of UK nationals (but not residents).[4]

5. The Ministry of Justice has overall policy responsibility for the operation of section 72[5] but other organisations are also involved.

5.1. Individual police forces are responsible for investigating cases, as is the National Crime Agency (NCA) through a network of 140 international liaison officers (ILOs) posted around the world.[6]

5.2. The Crown Prosecution Service initiates and conducts any section 72 prosecutions.[7]

5.3. Consulates provide assistance to those arrested for criminal offences overseas, including those to whom section 72 applies.[8]

5.4. The Home Office produces guidance on Part 2 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, including section 72.[9]


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