Prime Minister declines to support smartphone campaign by Brianna Ghey's mum

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pointed to the “tough new powers” now in force under the Online Safety Act

The prime minister has avoided explicitly supporting a campaign by the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey calling for a ban on social media apps on the phones of under-16s.

Esther Ghey is calling for searches for inappropriate material to be flagged to parents after evidence one of her daughter's killers, Scarlett Jenkinson, had watched videos of torture and murder online.

Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe were both 15 when they repeatedly stabbed 16-year-old Brianna with a hunting knife after luring her to Linear Park, Culcheth near Warrington, on 11 February 2023.

Brianna's killers: Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe Credit: Cheshire Police

Rishi Sunak, who is visiting Northern Ireland, said his thoughts were with Brianna’s family after the “unspeakable, unspeakable, awful act” but declined to say whether the Government might consider such a proposal.

Mr Sunak, echoing comments from Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, pointed to the “tough new powers” now in force under the Online Safety Act.

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.

Large fines are among the potential penalties for those who breach the new rules.

He said: “As a parent, I am always worried about social media and what my young girls are exposed to.

Rishi Sunak declined to give his support to the campaign by Esther Ghey Credit: PA Images

“That’s why I’m pleased we have passed the Online Safety Act over the last year and that means the regulator now has tough new powers to control what is exposed to children online.

“And if the big social media companies do not comply with that, the regulator is able to levy very significant fines on them and the priority now is making sure that act is up and running.”

Ms Ghey said over the weekend that she wanted a law “that there are mobile phones that are only suitable for under-16s”.

She said that such phones would “not have all of the social media apps that are out there now”.

“If a child is searching the kind of words that Scarlett and Eddie were searching, it will then flag up on the parent’s phone,” she said.

She said if the searches her daughter’s killers had made had been flagged, their parents would have been “able to get some kind of help”.

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