MSP Rona Mackay has said it is our “duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity” to protect children from cybersex trafficking.
At a Scottish Parliament debate, the Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP told how the criminal industry of livestreaming child abuse is even happening in Scotland.
Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency have been working with the International Justice Mission (IJM) to track down buyers and enablers of online child abuse.
Ms Mackay has called on the public to support the #NotOnMyScreen campaign to raise awareness of the crisis and help authorities tackle it.
She said: “This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers.
“Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found — everyone should think about that — and that could be just the tip of the iceberg.
“Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.”
Ms Mackay emphasised how the most successful way of tracking down perpetrators is via friends and family.
She said: “It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads.
“That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities.
“Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.”
She added: “We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.”
MSPs debated the motion:
That the Parliament recognises the concerns raised by people in Aberdeenshire East and around Scotland regarding the online exploitation and abuse of children; commends the efforts of the International Justice Mission (IJM) in highlighting child slavery and exploitation overseas; understands that this abuse is supported and enabled by online purchasers in western countries, including Scotland; commends Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency on their work with the IJM to identify and prosecute the buyers and enablers of online child abuse and cybersex trafficking, and further commends them for raising awareness of the problem at a national and international level in order to stop this abuse of children.
Rona Mackay’s full speech:
I thank Gillian Martin for bringing this debate to the Parliament.
Like all my colleagues in the Parliament, I have attended many events since I was elected, all of which have been interesting and enlightening. The event that I attended earlier this year, which was hosted by Jenny Marra MSP, who I understand has done admirable work in the field of child sexual exploitation and cybersex trafficking, had a lasting effect on me. I found it powerful and disturbing, as I know that my colleagues did.
I came away thinking two things. First, I was shocked that this could be happening to children throughout the world, including in Scotland. Secondly, I was in awe of the amazing work that is being done by the International Justice Mission and by the specialist police officers in Police Scotland and the National Crime Agency who are dedicated to eradicating this horrible scourge. The officers who protect our children see things every day that no individual should ever have to witness, because this truly is the darker side of the internet and human nature.
Cybersex trafficking of children is a growing and devastating form of modern-day slavery, which was unimaginable before the digital age and involves the live streaming of sexual abuse of children, which is viewed over the internet. As Gillian Martin said in her powerful speech, the majority of victims who are abused and exploited are the poorest and most vulnerable.
The IJM partners with justice systems throughout the developing world to bring criminals to justice, restore survivors and strengthen justice systems. Its work is essential in preventing violence against vulnerable individuals throughout the world who have no other access to justice. In an effort to raise awareness, the IJM launched the not on my screen campaign.
This is not just an international issue. Scottish children are becoming the subjects of online abuse in increasing numbers. Last year, more than 30 million indecent images of Scottish children were uncovered online over a six-week period. I repeat that 30 million images were found—members should think about that—and that could be just the tip of the iceberg. Five hundred and twenty-three children were identified as potential victims of abuse, and some victims were as young as three. Police crime statistics show that there is not one constituency in this Parliament where online child sexual exploitation is not an issue. It is here, on our doorsteps.
The not on my screen campaign aims to educate individuals about the alarming levels of abuse and encourage everyone to take a stand against it. The IJM is the largest anti-slavery organisation in the world. As internet access increases globally, victims can be exploited anywhere, including by someone with just a mobile phone.
In the Philippines, cybersex trafficking of children is growing exponentially, and Philippine authorities are receiving in excess of 6,000 referrals every month, many of which have connections to the UK. The trafficking is being driven by online users in western countries, including Scotland. IJM programmes around the world are currently protecting more than 21 million people from violence and slavery, 54 per cent of whom are aged between one and 12 years old.
It is important to remember that the perpetrators are often individuals that we would not pick out on the street. They could be sitting next to us on a train. They do not have “I am an abuser” tattooed on their foreheads. That is why we need public engagement to tackle the problem, through awareness and reporting in communities. Some of the most effective information that the police gather in online child sexual exploitation cases comes from reporting by friends and family, so it is vital that the public are engaged with the issue and that we all share the responsibility to fight abuse.
The IJM has recommended the establishment of a working group to consider what action to take regarding online CSE. The resourcing of a data fusion centre to address online CSE would be a step forward.
I urge members to add their voices to the campaign: they can tweet, using #NotOnMyScreen, to help to bring awareness to the issue.
We must protect innocent children from this horrific exploitation. That is our duty and responsibility, in the name of humanity.
MSP Rona Mackay has welcomed through the passing of a Bill to integrate the British Transport Police with Police Scotland.
Ms Mackay, the deputy convener of the Justice Committee, had scrutinised The Railway Policing (Scotland) Bill (2017) in the committee and chamber, and called its passing a “historic” moment for Scotland and the SNP government.
Following the MSPs’ approval of the Bill railway policing is now under the command of Police Scotland.
Ms Mackay said: “The passing of the Bill is a historic moment for policing and devolution in Scotland. It will see the specialism of transport policing retained, built upon and made fully accountable to the people of Scotland.
“Railway policing was answerable to the British Transport Police Authority, the Department for Transport and the Secretary of State for Transport in England and Wales. That was simply undemocratic.
“Making this change gives our railway officers access to the specialist resources of the UK’s second largest police force including, crucially, counter-terrorism capabilities.”
A DEAL between the Tories and the DUP will “short-change” Scotland, MSP Rona Mackay has said.
If Northern Ireland is dished out an additional £1 billion, Scotland should collect £2.9 billion, according to the United Kingdom’s Barnett Formula rule.
The Strathkelvin and Bearsden has called out Scottish secretary David Mundell and leader Ruth Davidson for boasting about standing up for the Barnett Formula — with Mundell quoted on Sunday saying he would not support anything that “deliberately sought to subvert the Barnett rules”.
Ms Mackay said: “The financial aspect of this deal between the Tories and the DUP clearly shows how little they care about Scotland.
“Scotland should be getting billions more if Northern Ireland is to receive more – that is how the Barnett Formula works and one of the core rules of devolution.
“This is the worst kind of pork-barrel politics, which has shredded the last vestiges of credibility of this weakened Prime Minister. There is no way this unstable cabal will be able to last.
“David Mundell and Ruth Davidson now have to either eat their words or rally Scotland’s Tory MPs against Theresa May. We have to stand together and defy this insult to devolution in the UK.”
What is the Barnett Formula?
The Barnett formula is a mechanism used by the UK treasury to automatically adjust amounts of public expenditure allocated to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is supposed to reflect public service spending in England, England and Wales or Great Britain, as appropriate.
If the £1bn of additional funding for Northern Ireland was subject to the Barnett formula, Scotland should receive £2.9bn of extra funds.
Using the population proportions used in the 2015 Spending Review (Annex D):
Population as proportion of England
Additional funding (£bn)
Comments by David Mundell:
David Mundell, Sunday Politics Scotland, (18 June): “I certainly won’t support funding which is deliberately sought to subvert the Barnett rules.”
David Mundell, Sunday Mail (25 June): “The Barnett formula is to Scotland’s advantage. I’m not going to do anything to prejudice that. Any funding that goes to Northern Ireland, then Barnett rules will ensure the appropriate funding comes to Scotland. We’re going to have a totally transparent arrangement with the DUP. I’m not going to agree to anything that could be construed as back door funding to Northern Ireland.”
David Mundell, Sunday Post (25 June): The Tories are “going to have a totally transparent arrangement with the DUP. I’m not going to agree to anything that could be construed as back-door funding to Northern Ireland. There are rules. The Barnett Formula is to Scotland’s advantage. I’m not going to do anything to prejudice it. Any funding that goes to Northern Ireland, then Barnett rules will ensure the appropriate funding comes to Scotland.”
A high school, after school club and residents group have congratulated by MSP Rona Mackay after securing substantial funding boosts.
A combined total of £25,916 has been handed out from the Big Lottery’s Awards for All Scotland grant.
Kirkintilloch High School has received £6,900 for camping equipment in order to allow more pupils to complete the Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.
Auchinairn After School Care Ltd has scooped £9,916 to maintain the local woodland for Forest School activities (fun, outdoor play and learning), with up to 80 children participating daily. Funding will be used to extend and develop their services for the local community.
Springfield Court Residents Association has recently received £9,100 to improve its residents’ lounge, install a hearing loop system, and improve their kitchen facilities.
Ms Mackay said: “The funding going to Kirkintilloch High School and Auchinairn After School Care goes directly into benefiting the lives of young people – which is absolutely excellent news.
“I’m also delighted for Springfield Court Residents Association, it looks like the funding is going to be brilliant for community relationships and helping residents hard of hearing.
“Very well done to all of these groups for their successful applications.”
MSP Rona Mackay, Deputy Convener of Holyrood’s Justice Committee, has welcomed the passage of the Limitation Childhood Abuse Scotland Bill in the Scottish Parliament.
The Bill, which will have retrospective effect, removes the three year time limit in which victims of childhood abuse can bring a civil action against their abuser – meaning that survivors can pursue justice later in life.
Rona Mackay MSP said: “This Bill is a big step forward in ensuring that survivors of childhood abuse are able to access justice later in life.
“While bringing a civil action may not be the right solution for all survivors of child abuse, it is vital that survivors have the choice to come forward as and when they feel ready to do so.
“Those who have suffered abuse as a child may delay disclosing the trauma for a whole host of reasons, including a difficulty processing what has happened to them, feelings of shame, suppressed memories or indeed pressure from the abuser. And it’s important that they have the choice to take the time to come forward.
“While it remains the case that the courts will weigh up the available evidence in each individual case, these changes to the law will give survivors the all-important choice about what actions they can legally take to seek justice.”
From Rona Mackay MSP by SNP central office
The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Bill was introduced in the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Government on the 16th November 2016, and was designed to improve the lives of survivors of historical childhood abuse in Scotland.
Holyrood’s Justice Committee was designated the lead committee for consideration of the Bill.
A call for evidence was issued and fifteen responses were received.
The Justice Committee supports the general principles of the Bill and made a number of recommendations relating to the more detailed aspects of the Bill, including the definition of abuse and the provisions relating to previously raised cases.
Prior to the passage of this Bill – victims had just three years from the date of their injury – or from their 16th birthday – to bring a court action. This time limit has been removed.
The new Bill does not enable claims to be brought in respect of abuse which took place prior to 1964. The justice committee has called for the Scottish Government to explore other options for redress for this group.
The circumstances giving rise to the court action must be defined as sexual, physical or emotional abuse.
The Bill is no panacea and pursuing a civil action will not be the right solution for all survivors.
Further info: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40357621
SNP MSP Rona Mackay has branded the Tory government a “lame duck” following an empty Queen’s Speech.
The Queen delivered the Tory government’s policy programme for the next two years this morning in Westminster Palace.
Ms Mackay, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden, said: “What is clear from the Queen’s Speech is Theresa May is leading a lame duck government. She may well be in office but she is not in power.
“The programme of government outlined by the Queen has nothing in it to address the economy and support austerity-hit public services.
“The Tories have ditched all of their flagship policies because they are too weak to push anything through – this is an embarrassing moment for them.
“How on earth can we expect these people to lead Brexit negotiations if they cannot even deliver a programme of government?
“The Tories have dragged Scotland and the rest of the UK through the mud thanks to their party infighting over the last few years. I wish them luck for the Brexit negotiation – they’ll need it — and echo calls for Scotland to have her seat at the table.”
Mums in Strathkelvin and Bearsden on low incomes can expect increased financial help from the SNP Government.
MSP Rona Mackay has welcomed in the use of new Maternity and Early Years Allowances powers to create a new grant starting in 2019.
The Best Start Grant will provide financial assistance to new low income mums, including: £600 for their first child, £300 for second and subsequent children, £250 when child starts nursery and £250 when child starts school.
The policy announcement coincides with the registration of the baby box opening for mums-to-be expecting on or after August 15. Mums-to-be can order via their next midwife appointment.
Ms Mackay said:
“Many children are born into circumstances entirely beyond their control, and this can have a severe impact on their life chances. It is a huge problem, and where past governments have failed, the SNP is determined to seriously combat the issue.
“The Baby Box and Best Start Grant are two measures designed to give every child in Scotland a healthy start to life. They are emblematic of the approach the SNP is taking to tackle child poverty and deprivation across Scotland.”
Press release from Rona Mackay MSP by Alan Ferguson (07342 06722)