The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 was enacted on 22 February 2017, as a part of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021. The Act will enhance and update laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, including new offences relating to child sexual grooming and new and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography. The Act also criminalises the purchase of sexual services, introduces new provisions regarding the giving of evidence by victims in sexual offence trials and introduces a new offence addressing public indecency. Other provisions include maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence as well as a statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts.
Furthermore, Part 4 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 provides for two new offences of paying for sexual activity with a prostitute and paying for sexual activity with a trafficked person. The Act also removes those who offer their services as a prostitute from the existing offences of soliciting for the purpose of prostitution. Part 4 of the Act specifies that, not later than 3 years after its commencement, a Report will be prepared on the number of arrests and convictions in respect of the new offences, as well as an assessment of the impact on those who provide sexual services for payment.
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