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Press releases archive


Convicted child sex abuser should have been prevented from leaving UK

5 December 2013

British sex offender, Michael McCartney, was arrested in Spain for the sexual abuse of three boys in November 2013.ECPAT UK has welcomed the recent arrest and conviction of UK sex offender Michael McCartney for the abuse of three children in Spain but has warned that UK law must be strengthened to restrict the travel of convicted child sex offenders. 

According to the police, he groomed the boys, gaining their trust before sexually abusing them. He had been on the run since then, having failed to attend his sentencing hearing in April 2013. Following his arrest in Alicante, Spain on 14th November, McCartney was extradited under the orders of a judge of the Spanish high court and was returned to the UK. Since his return, Cambridge Crown Court, where he was originally convicted, has added a further year to his original eight-year sentence.
While this case is an example of successful investigation and international cooperation in bringing a child sex abuser to justice, it also highlights the ease with which convicted sex offenders are able to leave the UK without detection. Despite the available mechanisms under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, such as Foreign Travel Orders, to restrict the movements of child sex abusers, such orders are rarely applied for, allowing offenders who pose a threat to children outside the UK to leave the country without difficulty. 

Najrana Imaan, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns (Transnational Child Exploitation), ECPAT UK, said: “ECPAT UK has been campaigning for greater protection for children from travelling sex offenders for 20 years. Cases like this once again illustrate the need for better protection of children everywhere from convicted offenders. The proposed amendments to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill provide the government in the UK an opportunity to introduce changes to the law which would prevent people like Michael McCartney from travelling abroad and abusing vulnerable children.”

The amendments, tabled by Nicola Blackwood MP, will introduce new orders, the Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) and Sexual Risk Order (SRO), to replace three current orders – the Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO), the Risk of Sexual Harm Order (ROSHO) and the Foreign Travel Order (FTO). If accepted, the orders can be made by a court on conviction or application to the magistrates’ court by the National Crime Agency or police court based on the intelligence they have on the person who poses a risk of sexual harm in the UK or abroad.  


ECPAT UK has campaigned for more than twenty years to end all forms of child trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT UK campaigns have been responsible for new legislation that can prosecute British nationals for crimes committed abroad. ECPAT UK works with police and the travel and tourism industry but much more work needs to be done to safeguard children no matter where they live.

About the Davies Review 

in May 2013, EPCAT UK released a review of the UK’s Sexual Offences Act 2003. Referred to as the Davies Review, the report said existing measures unnecessarily obstruct efforts to prevent sexual abuse of children in the UK and abroad. Reflecting upon some ‘uncomfortable truths’, the report documented cases of individuals travelling with impunity overseas to abuse children, including British offenders who have set up children’s charities in order to access the most vulnerable children, such as orphans and children living in abject poverty. Read the full review here.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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