Pioneering plans for internet safety
This week, HM Government announced plans to introduce pioneering laws for internet safety with the aim of protecting children online.
A new Online Harms White Paper proposes to introduce laws where online companies will face fines if they fail to adhere to a mandatory duty of care to protect users. This includes ending the sharing of content about child abuse or terrorism on their platforms. Under the proposed new statutory duty of care, online companies will be required to publish annual reports revealing the amount of harmful content on their platforms and how they have responded to such content.
A new regulatory body will be appointed to enforce measures such as issuing fines and blocking access to sites. It is also proposed the regulator would have the authority to impose liability on individual employees of the online companies.
In response to the introduction of the white paper, Anne Longfield (Children’s Commissioner for England who has campaigned for internet companies to be bound by such a statutory duty of care) said “Social media companies have spent too long ducking responsibility for the content they host online and ensuring those using their apps are the appropriate age. Any new regulator must have bite. Companies who fail in their responsibilities must face both significant financial penalties and a duty to publicly apologise for their actions and set out how they will prevent mistakes happening in the future.”
We will keep you updated on the progress of the white paper.
Alesha MacPhail killer lodges appeal
Aaron Campbell, the teenager convicted of abducting, raping and murdering 6-year-old Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute, has lodged an appeal against the 27-year minimum sentence served on him.
Last July Campbell stated he went to Alesha’s father’s flat, where he had previously bought cannabis, with the intention of obtaining drugs. Campbell however took the opportunity to abduct the sleeping 6-year-old, stating in a pre-sentencing background report “All I thought about was killing her once I saw her.” The post-mortem examination recorded 117 injuries on Alesha’s body. Campbell was convicted by a unanimous verdict.
Following sentencing it was revealed that Campbell told a psychologist that 12 months prior to the murder he had thought about “doing something excessive” including rape and was “quite satisfied with the murder”. He also stated he was “mildly amused” that it took police two days to arrest him after the discovery of Alesha’s body and that he had to “zip his mouth”) to stop himself laughing during the trial.
Campbell, described by his mother as “addicted to gaming”, had from an early age posted disturbing footage on his YouTube channel. This included footage where he provided commentary on Slender Man clips, a game where a tall, faceless character lives in the woods and stalks children. Following his conviction YouTube has taken down the footage as “a mark of respect for Alesha and her family”. Other disturbing social media use included a 2017 Facebook Messenger chat where Campbell wrote “Might kill 1 day for the lifetime experience”.
The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service this week confirmed that Campbell, described by the trial judge (Lord Matthews) as a “cold, callous, calculating, remorseless and dangerous individual”, had lodged a notice of appeal against his sentence. Currently Campbell is being held at HM Young Offenders’ Institute Polmont until he turns 21 when he will then be transferred to the adult prison system. He will not be eligible for parole until 2045.
DfE faces legal action following suicide attempt
The mother of the daughter who tried to kill herself whilst in an isolation booth at a Kent academy is to take legal action against the Department for Education. Her daughter, who has autistic spectrum disorder and mental health problems, spent every school day in an isolation booth from mid January through to mid March, when the practice ceased following the intervention of lawyers. During this time the child had to remain silent and had no directed teaching. The girl took an overdose whilst in the isolation booth.
The unregulated use of isolation booths has been criticised in recent months. Unlike fixed-term exclusions, currently there is no automatic mechanism for schools or academies to report the level of isolations to their governing bodies. HM Government guidance states that isolation rooms should only be used for a “limited period” and that “use of isolation that prevents a child from leaving a room of their own free will should only be considered in exceptional circumstances”.
The legal firm are taking action against the DfE on behalf of the girl, and a pupil of another school, for failing to review its guidance to schools about the use of isolation.
Breck’s Last Game
The film Breck’s Last Game, an innovative collaboration between Leicestershire Police, Northamptonshire Police, Surrey Police and Essex Police, is now publicly available as teaching resource.
14-year-old Breck Bednar was murdered in 2014 by 18-year-old Lewis Daynes, someone he only knew through online gaming and had never met in person until he was eventually coerced to visit Daynes’s flat. Daynes was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison for Breck’s murder. The film, made with the active support of Breck’s mother Lorin LaFave (who appears in the film), raises the awareness of the dangers of online grooming among boys. It is designed to make young people think about who they are in contact with online. Highlighting how a young person can be groomed and manipulated online, become distanced and isolated from friends and family, its purpose is to “protect children now and in the future and to stop another family losing a child in this way”.
The short film, which would be rated 15 if shown in cinemas, has references to grooming, coercive behaviour and violence and includes the real 999 call made to police by Daynes who murdered Breck. A resource pack designed to be delivered to secondary age pupils, developed with the support of the Breck Foundation, supports the film. It includes suggested lesson plans, fact sheets and supporting material and information.
Serious Youth Violence Summit
Following last week’s Serious Youth Violence Summit, it has been announced that youth sports projects are to be expanded to help tackle knife crime. The measure is one part of a renewed government commitment to use the sector to reach those young people most at risk. Schemes will be extended into areas affected by serious violence.
Suicide awareness and self harm
In case you missed it, new Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education guidance was published Feb 2019 which includes the teaching of emotional well being. The publication also includes guidance for teachers on the topics of suicide awareness and self harm.
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