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Growing problem of Brits abusing children overseas

Solicitor Rebekah Read, who specialises in representing international survivors of abuse, discusses the latest report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse relating to abuse committed by UK nationals overseas.

Posted on 13 January 2020

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)’s latest report contains damning findings on the prevalence of overseas abuse by British Nationals.  This comes as no surprise to us as we act for increasing numbers of children who have been abused by British men in developing countries.

Impoverished children living in developing countries, who are often dependent on aid, face a serious risk of abuse and exploitation due to the extreme power disparity between them and comparatively wealthy sex tourists. This is compounded by the fact that the perpetrators are often in a position of authority. For example, we have represented survivors of abuse by missionaries, pilots and individuals working for charities overseas. These individuals often use their control over the children’s funding for their school fees to manipulate them into performing sex acts.

Our traumatised clients often ask us how the perpetrators were able to travel overseas when, in many cases, they had already been convicted of child abuse in the UK.  In one such case we recently secured compensation for eight Thai boys who were abused by Mark Frost. In 1998 Frost was convicted for an indecent assault on a boy under the age of 16 and placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years. Despite this he travelled to Guernsey and France, eventually seeming to disappear altogether. During this time he was subjecting our clients to horrific and deeply disturbing sexual abuse in Thailand. Had a travel ban been in place, this could have been avoided.

The IICSA report highlights the failure to make use of foreign travel bans, with the astonishing disclosure that foreign travel restrictions were imposed in only 11 of the 5,550 sexual harm prevention orders imposed in England and Wales in 2017-18. This is especially disturbing considering the fact that for years we and others have consistently pressed for foreign travel bans to be used more widely and rigorously. Further, the issue needs continual monitoring to ensure that travel bans are being appropriately implemented.  More steps should be taken to ensure that international organisations have proper measures in place to prevent them being used as a vehicle for abuse. 

We are deeply concerned by the exponential increase in the live streaming of abuse, which enables child abusers to remotely abuse impoverished children in particular in South East Asia, a problem which none of the report’s recommendations deal with.

The report and its recommendations represent a small step in the right direction. However the gravity of this problem requires a far more drastic approach.  We will continue to fight for greater protection for survivors like our clients, who are some of the most vulnerable children in the world.


Rebekah Read
Abuse Corporate accountability Whistleblowing

Rebekah Read

Rebekah Read is a senior associate solicitor in the international department.