Call for change in law to protect under-18s online

JERSEY law should be overhauled to give children up to the age of 18 protection from sexualised contact from adults online, the children’s commissioner has said.

Children's commissioner Deborah McMillan. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30700376)
Children's commissioner Deborah McMillan. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30700376)

Deborah McMillan called for the action after the JEP reported yesterday that Deputy Kevin Pamplin sent ‘inappropriate’ Facebook messages to a 16-year-old girl seven years ago.

In the exchanges, the former broadcaster, who was then aged in his mid-to-late 30s, called her ‘cute’ and ‘sexy’, suggested they got drunk together and told her it would be ‘fun to hang out’.

He also sent her a picture of himself with his face partially covered by a blanket, along with a message saying it represented him ‘in bed looking lost for a cuddle’.

As the girl was 16 and therefore of legal age, the Deputy, who was not a politician at the time, did not commit a criminal offence.

But Mrs McMillan believes the law should be changed to allow individuals to be prosecuted if the recipients of the messages are aged up to 18.

In an official statement released through her office, Mrs McMillan said: ‘It would not be appropriate for me to comment on private conversations between consenting adults.

‘However, I do think that it is time for us in Jersey to have a public conversation about what constitutes appropriate contact between adults and young people.

‘Currently, the Island’s legislation only allows for grooming to be prosecuted when victims are under the age of legal sexual consent, which is 16.

‘But I would argue that this is not consistent with many of the other rights and protections that we offer children and young people under the age of 18.

‘Anyone who is the parent of a teenager, or indeed has been a teenager themselves, will know very well that a 16-year-old is still in the process of maturing and experimenting with their independence. This can, for many people, be a particularly vulnerable moment in their lives, and I believe that we, as a society, should do everything we can to ensure that adequate protections are in place.’

She added: ‘The mismatch in power between a grown adult and a young person aged 16 or 17 is very real, and is open to exploitation.

‘I would like to see a debate in Jersey that tackles what I view as a vulnerability gap in our current legislation which, as it stands, leaves the police and other agencies powerless in tackling behaviour that would otherwise be viewed as predatory.’

During one of the exchanges with the girl, Deputy Pamplin acknowledges that some of his messages had been ‘inappropriate’ and that calling her ‘really cute lol does come across a bit pervy’, before adding ‘but hey it’s the truth’.

The Deputy, who was elected into the States as a Deputy for St Saviour No 1 district three years after sending the messages, declined to comment.

When asked if she believed that the Deputy should resign from the States or as a member of the Care of Children in Jersey Review Panel, Mrs McMillan said: ‘I am not in possession of all the facts surrounding that particular case, so would prefer to restrict my comments to the more general subject of the shortcomings in our grooming legislation.’

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