Legal Matters: High-Profile Cases Put Spotlight on Sex Crimes; an Australian Paedophile Living in the West Midlands Has Been Placed on the National Sex Offenders Register under New Sex Laws. Home Affairs Correspondent Richard Warburton Looks at the Sexual Offences Act

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Byline: Richard Warburton

Not since the Victorian era have sexual offenders in Britain been subjected to such rigorous and far reaching laws.

Last month the new Sexual Offences Act 2003 came into power as part of the most radical reform of sex crimes.

The Act introduced a raft of new laws designed to clamp down on a rise of sexual offences that reflect modern living, particularly against children and concerning rape.

High profile cases, like the sexual abuse and murder of Sarah Payne and the Soham murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by Ian Huntley, have exposed the extent of sexual crimes in Britain and helped to tighten the law as well as introduce new rulings.

The sweeping Act includes: lToughening the sex offenders register lA new offence of trafficking people for sexual exploitation lA range of new offences designed totackle inappropriate sexual activity with children lClosing a loophole which allowed men to claim sex with under-13s was consensual lDefinition of rape to include oral and anal penetration Introducing the Act Home Secretary David Blunkett said the new laws replaced those which were 'based on the Victorian era'.

'New laws offer increased protection, especially to children and vulnerable people, combat modern crimes such as grooming and, for the first time, do away with discrimination by applying the law equally to men and women,' he said. Already the new laws have had a dramatic effect on additions to the national sex offenders register.

West Midlands Police has successfully applied for a 53-year-old Australian paedophile to be registered despite none of his 18 convictions being committed in the UK. Before the new Act the authorities would have been powerless to keep tabs on the man, but new laws mean it does not matter where in the world the offences took place, a convicted paedophile can be placed on the list in Britain. …