Child sex tourism is tourism for the purpose of engaging in the prostitution of children, which is commercially facilitated child sex abuse .
It is the sexual exploitation of children by people who travel from their home district, geographical region, or country in order to have sexual contact with children. It can involve the exchange of cash, clothes, and food for sexual contact. Thailand, Cambodia, India, Brazil, and Mexico have been identified as leading “hotspots” of child sexual exploitation. Many perpetrators of sexual abuse in foreign countries originate from countries such as Australia, Sweden, Denmark, the US, and the UK.
“Despite existing legislation in the UK, children abroad are still being abused by UK nationals.
For many years, we have seen a clear pattern of repeat offenders travelling from county to country to avoid sex offender management mechanisms in the UK. For too long, this issue has been neglected and offenders allowed to commit this form of child exploitation with impunity. There continues to be a real lack of awareness, almost like a blind spot, to recognise that citizens from a rich country like Britain are abusers of very vulnerable children abroad. “
ECPAT has called on authorities to track down offenders and prevent known abusers from travelling abroad. Their publication combating Child Sex Tourism is a useful resource.
The abuse can sometimes begin online, with perpetrators befriending children. This is a growing problem which can then turn into physical sexual exploitation with the children “performing” online for the perpetrator in exchange for money. From there, the perpetrator will often arrange to meet physically.
Webcam child sex tourism is yet another form of child sex tourism. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, it is estimated that 750,000 predators are online at any given time in 40,000 public chat rooms.
There are several known cases of known sex offenders being free to travel abroad and then going on to abuse more children in other countries, before finally being successfully prosecuted in the UK:
Gary Glitter, 74, a former popstar was able to travel to Vietnam and abuse young girls aged 10 and 11 despite having been convicted of child sex offences in 1999. He even managed to have a travel ban lifted in 2011. Glitter was eventually imprisoned in 2015 and sentenced to 16 years for abusing three young girls.
Mark Frost, 70, formerly known as Andrew Tracey, a former teacher and scout leader had a record of sexually abusing young boys for more than 25 years but was free to travel to Thailand and abuse children there. After admitting to 45 offences spanning over 25 years, Frost was sentenced to a minimum of 16 years in 2017.
Simon Harris, 55, a charity worker and ex-public school teacher was allowed to move to Africa despite being convicted of sexually assaulting three schoolboys at a boarding school in Devon and also possessing indecent images of children in the 1980s. He was later found guilty of sexually abusing Kenyan street children between the years of 2002 – 2013 and sentenced to 17 years and 4 months in 2015.
Perpetrators of child sex exploitation in developing countries often go undetected due to less sophisticated policing and criminal justice systems, and many escape conviction.
In child sex tourism, the perpetrator tends to be a foreigner who leaves the country after committing the crime, presenting major difficulties for any investigation or prosecution.
It is open to a victim of child sex tourism to pursue a civil compensation claim against the perpetrator of their abuse.
In what is believed to be the first case of its kind, Douglas Slade aged 77, a convicted British paedophile, was successfully sued in December 2018 by 5 young Filipino men who alleged he had sexually abused them as children in the Philippines.
Despite Slade denying any wrongdoing and not being convicted of these offences, High Court Judge Mark Gargan decided he had sexually abused the young men (when they were boys) and they were awarded £127,000 in total. The awards made to each victim ranged from between £20,000 - £35,000.
Slade had moved to the Philippines in 1985 and lived there for 30 years. He purchased a property near a school in a “poor neighbourhood”. The boys he abused all lived in poverty and claim they were groomed by Slade in exchange for money and chocolate. The youngest of the 5 young men abused by Slade was aged just 10 years old when the abuse is alleged to have started. There were several police investigations against Slade whilst he living in the Philippines but no convictions.
When these claims were brought against Slade in 2018, he had already been convicted of sexually abusing 5 boys in the UK between the years of 1965-1980 and had been sentenced to 24 years in prison in 2016. In respect of these victims, the judge described Slade as “wholly unrepentant”.
Slade actively campaigned for the legalisation of sex between children and adults in the 1970s and 80s, he was a founding member of the Paedophile Information Exchange, and he also previously ran a helpline for child sex abusers, from his parents’ home in Bristol.
The “Slade” case is the first where foreign victims of child abuse have successfully claimed compensation against a British abuser, and demonstrates that it is still possible for UK child sex tourists to receive their just desserts back in the UK. The key question is whether the perpetrator is worth pursuing. If he is a “man of straw”, a civil compensation claim will be difficult.