January 30, 2015
In December 2014, a British court convicted Simon Harris for sexually abusing Kenyan street boys and possessing indecent images of children. He had been working as the director of a children’s charity in a rural Kenyan community. The trial against him represented an innovative use of technology and a unique collaboration between UK authorities, Kenyan police and human rights organizations like IJM. (Read about the case here.)
Harris was charged under the UK’s Sexual Offences Act of 2003, which allows British nationals to be held accountable for abuse committed abroad (similar to the PROTECT Act in the U.S.). This was the first time the law has been used for crimes committed in Africa.
The British High Commission in Nairobi hosted an event on January 15, 2015, to roll out a new safeguard against convicted sex offenders who would seek work abroad as a ruse for exploiting children. The International Child Protection Certificate is a criminal records check for UK nationals (or previous residents of the UK) who are seeking to work with children overseas.
Through this certificate, Kenyan international schools and child-focused organizations can now receive a thorough background check on volunteers or staff applying from the UK. (Read more about the International Child Protection Certificate.)
British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner presented an award to IJM for their unique and persistent involvement in the case against Simon Harris.
The award states:
"In recognition of your dedication, professionalism and innovation during Operation Former: a joint Kenya/UK investigation to safeguard vulnerable children from sexual abuse. This was the first time in Africa when UK Sexual Offences legislation was used to prosecute the offender in the UK using evidence obtained in Kenya. Despite the considerable complexities and challenges of the case, you persevered and brought a successful outcome that will protect children from sexual abuse in the future.”