“UK’s online safety law does not protect our children”, says mum of murdered Cheshire teenager

Posted: 16th February 2024

The mum of murdered Cheshire teenager Brianna Ghey has said a law aimed at protecting young people online is not fit for purpose.

Esther Ghey is campaigning for mobile phone companies to take more responsibility for safeguarding children against the risks of accessing harmful content.

Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe were both 15 when they killed transgender Brianna, 16, with a hunting knife after luring her to Linear Park in Culcheth, a village near Warrington, on February 11 last year. Jenkinson had committed the brutal killing after she had watched videos of torture and murder online.

In a round of television and radio interviews on Thursday, Ms Ghey said the Online Safety Act was a “step in the right direction” but she did not think it was sufficient to protect children.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think the Online Safety Bill is enough. The internet and social media is so vast, I think it will be so hard to police.

Esther Ghey appeared on Good Morning Britain© Good Morning Britain

“The second point is as well, that comments and free speech – and don’t get me wrong I am all for free speech – but some of the comments I have seen on social media posts and some of the articles that I’ve done, they are just hateful comments.

“The Online Safety Bill is not going to protect children and young people from seeing that kind of horrible content because I don’t think that will be deemed as harmful.

“Smartphone companies should have a moral responsibility and you should really want to do more.

“But I think that big companies like that are all about how much money they can generate and they don’t necessarily think about the impact it is having on the public, so I think that maybe there would have to be a law just to make sure it is properly enforced.”

Asked on BBC Breakfast what her message to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would be, Ms Ghey said: “I think more needs to be done to protect children online.

“I think the Online Safety Bill is a step in the right direction but I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be enough to protect children.”

The legislation passed into law in November and requires social media companies to curb the spread of illegal content on their platforms and protect children from seeing potentially harmful material, with large fines among the potential penalties for those who breach the new rules.

Ms Ghey told ITV1’s Good Morning Britain that she believed she had cross-party support for her campaign to introduce “mindfulness” into schools in England.

She said: “I think there is a misconception that it’s a bit airy-fairy and not very substantial, but for me it’s building mental fitness.

“So just as you would go to the gym and you would lift heavy weights to build muscle and to become fit, it’s the same thing for your mind – you are building that mental fitness and mental resilience.

“I think that is something that young people are lacking so much.

“I have practised mindfulness on and off for eight years now and I was very heavily into it just before what happened to Brianna and I do really think that has helped me, and it helped to take that impact of such an horrendous thing happening.”

Ms Ghey has previously spoken about wanting to meet Jenkinson’s mother and told the ITV programme it was “potentially something that will be happening”.

She said: “I know how difficult it is to be a parent in this day and age with social media and mobile phones, and it’s so difficult to keep track of what your children are accessing or what they are viewing.

“I suppose when I was young you had peer pressure, whereas now you’ve got everything that’s in the world, negative and positive, and young people are so easily influenced so I don’t blame the parents.

“And they have also been through something really horrific. They have had to sit in court and listen to what their children have done.

“I would like to meet Scarlett’s mother. It is potentially something that will be happening but it will be happening in a very private and personal way.”

Earlier this month, Jenkinson and Ratcliffe – now both aged 16 – received life sentences at Manchester Crown Court and told to serve minimum terms of 22 years and 20 years before they can be considered for parole.

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