“Loughton proposes tighter controls to prevent child abuse in entertainment industry”

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 11 January 2013

The former children's minister has launched a bid to improve measures designed to protect children who appear in theatre and on television.

Tim Loughton has proposed amendments to legislation intended to make sure that abuses such as those committed by television presenter and DJ Jimmy Savile are prevented in the future.

Under the proposals, children’s chaperones would have to receive ongoing child protection training in line with nationally agreed standards, while the legal limit on the ratio of chaperones to children would be changed from one to 12, to one to 10.

Requirements for amateur productions would be less stringent, so that volunteer chaperones would only be subject to CRB checks.

“There are many excellent chaperones doing a very good job but there are no formal qualifications for the role and no nationally agreed standards, and my bill would address that,” said Loughton.

“Would Jimmy Savile have succeeded in luring fewer teenagers back to his dressing room if the chaperones had been there, on the ball, wise to the mesmeric charms of dodgy shell-suited celebs?”

Donald Findlater, director of research and development at child sexual abuse charity the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said Loughton made a “good case” for updating legislation, but he questioned the former minister’s differing approaches towards “commercial and amateur performances”.

“Given that children who are sexually abused are most typically abused by someone they know, celebrities and neighbours included, I hesitate to accept that the safeguards in place in the latter should be any less than those deemed suitable in the former,” said Findlater.

“We need to be alert to the fact that those with a sexual interest in children will gravitate to those places where they can access them. All adults in such contexts need to be appropriately checked and, just as important, trained to be alert to risk and know what to do about any concerns.”

Loughton's proposals to amend the 1963 Children & Young Persons Act, which includes regulations around performing children, are based on recommendations contained in a government consultation that was launched in May last year, when he was still children's minister at the Department for Education.

The results of the consultation are as yet unpublished, but in light of the Savile scandal, Loughton said there was an “urgent” need to ensure the system allowed children to “pursue their talents safely”.

Loughton's proposals come as the Metropolitan Police and the NSPCC publish a joint report into sexual allegations made against Jimmy Savile.

The Giving Victims a Voice report details the work of Operation Yewtree based on the accounts of more than 450 victims who have come forward since Jimmy Savile was exposed as a sex offender in October 2012.

The report found that 73 per cent of Savile's victims were children and concludes that he was a prolific, predatory sex offender. It argues that Savile was able, through his celebrity status, to 'hide in plain sight' while abusing children over six decades.

Commander Peter Spindler, head of the Met’s specialist crime investigations, said: “We must use the learning from these shocking events to prevent other children and vulnerable adults being abused in the future.”

Peter Watt, NSPCC director of child protection advice and awareness, added: “We know from the huge increase in calls to the NSPCC helpline about sexual abuse that the problem did not die with Savile.

“Almost 800 additional children have been protected from abuse because of the publicity around this case prompted people to contact our helpline. We are optimistic that this signals a watershed moment for child protection in this country. We must seize the opportunity if we are to make a lasting change.”