Skip to main content

0800 917 1000 Open weekdays 9am to 5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Children Outside the United Kingdom Phase 2 Investigation Report

C.4: Reform

38. It is clear that section 72 is relatively rarely used. There are various reasons for this.

39. One reason for section 72 not being used is the ‘first country first’ principle. While in principle prosecutions ought to take place in the country in which the offence occurred, there are numerous instances where a prosecution in England and Wales can and should take place.

40. Another concern has been the suggestion that section 72 should only be used as a ‘last resort’. This should not be the case, given that the quality of local justice may be suspect in some countries. The Inquiry’s examination of the use of section 72 appears to have led directly to the NCA and FCO changing the ‘last resort’ elements of their guidance documents.

40.1. The NCA accepted that its ILO guidance was not well written.[1] As a result, the guidance was reviewed and the Inquiry was provided with an updated version in February 2019. The new guidance no longer refers to section 72 as being a last resort but states that ILOs should:

Engage the host country to initiate their own investigations to achieve best evidence and safeguard victims and secure prosecutions against British nationals who commit CSEA offences in their host-country. In most instances, this is the preferred option, as it is the best way of ensuring safeguarding of victims through local intervention, which is the priority in any CSEA investigation. However, consideration should also be given to the option of prosecuting under Section 72 Sexual Offences Act (2003), which allows UK individuals who offend overseas to be prosecuted in the UK. Where there are indicators of a lack of capability or capacity, or unwillingness to take a prosecution, or significant complications, such as human rights considerations, are developing in the case, a section 72 prosecution may be the optimal approach to take.[2]

40.2. The FCO also accepted that the tone of its guidance was unhelpful in implying a last resort approach, and mentioning diplomatic issues when reference should have been made to jurisdictional issues. The FCO confirmed that, as a result of the Inquiry process, its guidance has also been reworded.[3]

41. Section 72 investigations are undoubtedly resource-intensive. There is a need to ensure effective cooperation between law enforcement agencies internationally. This requires an adequate number of ILOs able to work effectively with international partners in high-risk countries. The NCA is taking steps to ensure that this is the case, recognising that transnational child sexual abuse is only one aspect of their work.

42. The international work of the NCA sits within a wider context, including the following:

  • The Home Office houses the secretariat for the WeProtect Global Alliance, made up of 84 countries, which is seeking to coordinate a model national response to online child sexual abuse, among other initiatives.[4]
  • Project Soteria is a project sponsored by the Department for International Development (DFID) which will include a team of seven to nine specialists and investigators operating from both Africa and Asia to provide support to national crime agencies.[5]
  • There is a new cross-government network of overseas policy specialists (SOCNET), jointly run by the Home Office, FCO and DFID. Its role will be to use political and diplomatic means to build on existing law enforcement capabilities in other countries.[6]

43. There is a need for increased awareness of section 72 by police forces in England and Wales, to be achieved through guidance and training. During her evidence, Chief Constable Skeer undertook to include further information about section 72 in the College of Policing’s Authorised Professional Practice material, which is national guidance given to all police forces.[7] That process was taken forward after the hearing and a further training event has taken place.[8]

44. The difficulties in collating data for the Inquiry have also led to amendments to the data captured on the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) database, so that each use of section 72 will be recorded and therefore be more easily retrievable in the future.[9] The NPCC has confirmed that this interim measure will become a permanent amendment to the ViSOR system from November 2019.


Back to top