child sexual exploitation

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Child sexual exploitation: implications for adult social care and safeguarding boards

Published February 11, 2015 by JS2

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The repercussions from child sexual exploitation reverberate into adulthood, says Angie Heal, so adult social care needs to understand the issue and respond effectively

The publication of the Jay report in September 2014 was another watershed moment in child protection. The revelation that over 1,400 children were sexually exploited over a 16-year period in Rotherham shocked the nation and has been the subject of worldwide attention. Rotherham is not an isolated case: Rochdale, Oxford, Derby and Reading have all hit the headlines following prosecutions for child sexual exploitation (CSE). All local safeguarding children boards (LSCBs) should now be conducting enquiries to understand the size and nature of CSE locally.

The focus of political, media and public interest has rightly been on the response of children’s social care and LSCBs, in conjunction with their police partners. But now is a time to reflect further about the implications. These children grow up; they reach the age of 18 – or 21 in the case of children who are looked after by local authorities – when they are no longer the responsibility of children’s services. Adult social care and safeguarding adult boards (SABs) need to be aware of child and adult sexual exploitation, understand the issue locally and develop a proactive and effective response, at both a strategic and individual level. Adult services and SABs should learn from the CSE research and policy reports (including a report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the Jay report, and the Casey report into Rotherham Council); findings are transferable to the adult care milieu.

Adult victims

In essence, there are two groups of adult victims. First, those who continue to be abused by perpetrators once they turn 18 or 21, and who should subsequently become the subject of a safeguarding adult enquiry. Second, survivors who are no longer being abused but disclose previous CSE, to which the statutory adult agencies have a duty to respond. Even when the sexual, physical and psychological abuse has stopped, the majority will require some level of care and support as adults because of issues including mental ill health, self-harm, problematic use of illicit drugs or alcohol, interrupted education resulting in no or low paid jobs and economic insecurity.

Parents and siblings may also be traumatised and have suffered abuse from perpetrators. Victims may have a child fathered by a perpetrator, who may or may not be in their care. Whilst the focus has wholly been on white girls, those who are far less likely to report such crimes should not be ignored: these include girls from black and minority ethnic groups, and boys of all ethnic origins.

Transition arrangements

As children, victims may already be in receipt of services. This may be as a result of having a child protection plan, learning or physical disabilities, mental health problems, being a looked-after child, reporting to the youth offending service or being in secure accommodation, for example. Transition arrangements should be more effective as a result of the Care Act 2014, which should regulate the move from children’s to adults’ services for those who are eligible. Each local area should satisfy itself that it is adequately prepared to respond; the Casey Report expressed significant unease about Rotherham services:

“We have serious concerns about the group of young people during their transition to adulthood: that is, over 18. It was unclear to inspectors what happens to victims of CSE at this point. [Rotherham Council] do not view these young people as victims with ongoing support needs, and instead see their role in terms of a statutory children’s social care responsibility which ends when the children turn 18.

Some interviewees suggested that services were just turned off. Adult services did not have an effective system in place to ensure a smooth and effective transition for this vulnerable group. Indeed, the criteria for receiving adult services mean that the victims may not meet the need for continued support even though they remain vulnerable, and in some cases continue to be sexually exploited.” (p93)

Human consequences

The human consequences of the failings of statutory services to protect children in Rotherham has been monumental. As well as the trauma to the victims and their families, perpetrators have been allowed to continue unabated; the local Asian community and the people in Rotherham in general have been stigmatised and devastated by what has happened; the reputations of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police have been savaged; workers and officers demoralised. The financial costs of failing to proactively address CSE are also huge, with class action being taken by survivors.

No one should underestimate the ordeal victims have undergone, nor the challenges they face in recovery. The support of all relevant adult services, therefore, is vital in order to promote their well-being and prevent, reduce or delay the onset of further needs.

Angie Heal is a director of Policy Partners Project. As a former employee of South Yorkshire Police, she wrote reports in relation to child sexual exploitation. As a result she was a witness in the Jay and Casey inquiries, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee, and will  also be a witness in the Independent Police Complaints Commission and National Crime Agency investigations into police office misconduct.

There are millions of images of child sex abuse online – but we CAN erase them all

Published January 2, 2015 by JS2

NSPCC chief exective Peter Wanless on the charity’s campaign to remove child abuse images from the internet

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How we deal with the sexual abuse of children is one of the biggest challenges facing society.

This year we have heard truly horrific allegations of historic sexual abuse, including Westminster paedophile rings killing boys, and only today there was a warning that children are being groomed in every town.

But there is another battle in the war on child abuse, and it is one that we can win.

I recently joined a summit of international experts dedicated to eradicating one of the vilest crimes which currently plagues the world – making, circulating and viewing pictures of children being sexually assaulted and raped.

It was successful in the sense that it raised awareness of the problem, demonstrated cross-border commitment to taking action and showcased interesting ideas.

But even as the delegates were enthusiastically embracing a new-found co-operation, the grim reality of this sordid business was being played out in criminal courts across the country – and continues.

While Prime Minister David Cameron was announcing a new specialist crime unit to target criminals who deal in these online images, a middle-aged man was jailed for a second offence of possessing them.

Another had been caught with 50,000 illegal pictures and a third claimed he viewed indecent material because he was “lonely”.

This was not an exceptional day. Pick almost any other date in the year and you will find someone being found guilty of downloading or possessing images which would make decent people recoil.

The sheer volume of this appalling material is also quite staggering.

NSPCC research a couple of years ago revealed 26 million child abuse pictures had been confiscated by just five of 43 police forces in England and Wales.

And those caught with them come from all walks of life.

They range from teenagers to pensioners from a variety of professions – paediatricians, policemen, journalists, social workers, undertakers, lecturers, teachers, company directors, sports coaches, electricians, bell-ringers, caretakers and on and on.

It is the way the tentacles of this terrible crime have reached all sections of society and the apparently continuing ease of access to these images which leads me to fear we may be on the brink of something very dangerous – becoming sanitised to a crime that thrives on the sexual abuse of the very young and vulnerable.

Around four in five images feature a child under the age of 11 – including babies – and half of them show children being tortured or raped by an adult.

Fortunately most of us will never see these images, but that doesn’t mean we are immunised against their effects.

Any society that allows such an evil scenario to play out uninterrupted must surely be demeaned and every one of us should feel at least a little guilty while it persists.

Most importantly, we must never forget that these are not just pictures.

They are crime scenes and children have been abused to create them.

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Crime scenes: Child abuse images demean us all

There is also evidence that some – not all – of those found with images will have committed other sex offences against children.

So, while the summit’s glow of satisfaction has dimmed, we have to turn to the real and ongoing job in hand: cleansing the web of all child abuse images.

That may sound like pie in the sky, that the web is too intricate and full of dark corners – countless billions of pages where criminals can hide all kinds of material. But we need a zero-tolerance stance.

Do we want to blindly slide into a situation where, a few years down the line, there are endless pictures in existence and so many offenders viewing them that it becomes an almost acceptable part of the downside of life, like burglary or fraud?

Is that the kind of tainted legacy we want to pass on?

It may take time to achieve but we have to commit now.

Twenty-five years ago the NSPCC started raising concerns about the way child victims of abuse were treated when they gave evidence in criminal trials.

There was little enthusiasm at first and it is only in recent months, following our Order in Court campaign, that the Government agreed to improve the situation.

Children will no longer have to be in the court building when giving their evidence and lawyers dealing with abuse cases will need to undergo specialist training.

Likewise, when we pointed out a legal loophole that was allowing sexual predators to target children online, the Government was at first dismissive.

But again, through pressure from our Flaw in the Law campaign, this get-out for abusers has now been firmly closed.

So we can bring about significant improvements to child protection if we set our minds to it and have an effective national strategy which brings together all interested parties – industry, police, child protection agencies and government – and sets an agenda that does not end until we have achieved our goal.

I do not expect this gargantuan task to be achieved overnight. But there is already some promising progress from the Internet Watch Foundation, which monitors websites displaying child abuse images.

Now it has the funding to work pro-actively, instead of waiting for reports to come in, it has identified nearly 28,000 offending web pages – more than twice last year’s total.

Cleaning up the web sounds daunting and has never been attempted before on such a grand scale. But we must make it work.

In five years’ time I do not want to be looking out on a landscape that is still scarred by this problem which damages so many vulnerable lives.

by Peter Wanless

Using the Inherent Jurisdiction to Disrupt Child Sexual Exploitation

Published December 30, 2014 by JS2

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Heather Popley, barrister of No 5 Chambers, examines the innovative use of civil injunctions in the recent Birmingham case.

Heather Popley, barrister, No 5 Chambers

On the 15th December 2014 Mr Justice Keehan handed down his fully reasoned judgment in six connected cases involving child sexual exploitation (reported as Birmingham City Council v Riaz and Others [2014] EWHC 4247).  Earlier media coverage in November 2014 had drawn attention to the orders he had made granting civil injunctions against 10 respondents and naming the men involved in child sexual exploitation.

He refers in the judgment to the applications brought by Birmingham City Council as being a “bold and innovative approach” stating that the injunctive orders will protect the child who was the subject of the hearings and other vulnerable young females.  His judgment concluded:

“I hope that the approach I have taken in this case and the orders I have made will send a powerful message to those who engage in the CSE of young females or are considering doing so.  I very much hope that the stance taken by Birmingham City Council, in close co-operation with the West Midland’s Police, will be considered and followed by other local authorities in cases of CSE.”

Child sexual exploitation
Unfortunately CSE is prevalent within the UK. There is increasing awareness, both professional and public, of the damage that sexual exploitation inflicts upon children and vulnerable young adults irrespective of gender. The impact is not restricted to their childhood and adolescence; there can be lasting consequences throughout the victims’ lives.

If there was any doubt on these points, then reference only needs to be made to any of the recent reports including:

Practitioners will be aware of the struggle to take effective steps to protect victims of CSE and to disrupt and stop the perpetrators. The challenges faced are even greater when the victims are in their mid to late teens, one reason being that often these victims do not appreciate and realise that they are at risk of or are being sexually exploited. This feature was clearly acknowledged in the judgment with the court identifying that “all too often they have suffered abusive and neglected childhoods and are attracted to and flattered by men who seek them out.  They are seduced by the attention given to them whether by way of compliments, gifts, drugs or alcohol.”

This often comes at the stage of their lives when establishing a degree of self-autonomy and independence from carers is an essential part of growing up.

Inherent jurisdiction
Keehan J granted the permission, necessary pursuant to section 100(3) of the Children Act 1989, to enable the local authority to pursue the applications for injunctions against the men believed to have sexually exploited the child in their care.

He drew attention to Practice Direction 12D from the Family Procedure Rules 2010 rehearsing that:

1.1 It is the duty of the court under its inherent jurisdiction to ensure that a child who is the subject of proceedings is protected and properly taken care of. The court may in exercising its inherent jurisdiction make any order or determine any issue in respect of a child unless limited by case law or statue. Such proceedings should not be commenced unless it is clear that the issues concerning the child cannot be resolved under the Children Act 1989.

1.2 The court may under its inherent jurisdiction, in addition to all of the orders which can be made in family proceedings, make a wide range of injunctions for the child’s protection of which the following are the most common: –

a) orders to restrain publicity;

b) orders to prevent an undesirable association;

c) orders relating to medical treatment;

d) orders to protect abducted children, or children where the case has another substantial foreign element; and

e) orders for the return of children to and from another state.

He stated at paragraph 46 of the judgment:

“I am of the firm view that the use of the inherent jurisdiction to make injunctive orders to prevent CSE strikes at the heart of the parens patriae jurisdiction of the High Court. I am satisfied that none of the statutory or the ‘self imposed limits’ on the exercise of the jurisdiction prevent the court from making the orders sought by the local authority in this case.”

The injunctive orders
The detailed terms of the injunctions are set out in full in the judgment.  They include prohibitions on the men having contact with the child herself (which includes not only physical contact but also via social media even if instigated by the child) and approaching in public places or having in their vehicle any other females under the age of 18 years with whom they are not previously associated.

Mr Justice Keehan explained his inclusion of this extension beyond the subject child by reference to the findings of fact he made against the individual men which drove him to the conclusion that he was  “satisfied, that unless prohibited from doing so, there is a real risk that each of them would seek to sexually exploit other vulnerable young females under the age of 18. Accordingly I am satisfied that the terms of the proposed order……… are fair, necessary, and proportionate to the risk I have identified and are clear.”

Whilst successful criminal prosecution of the perpetrators would represent the strongest public sanction for sexually exploitative behaviour, it is not always possible, nor always appropriate, to leave the protection of vulnerable children and young adults to the criminal process alone. In many cases orders restricting the liberty of the child, such as a secure accommodation order, are seen as the first step.   Sometimes it is an essential and unavoidable step in securing the child’s safety and longer-term wellbeing but when taken in isolation, can be felt to be inappropriately punitive as reflected in paragraph 158 of Keehan J’s judgment: “whilst that action is taken in the best interests and to protect the young victim, it strikes me as wrong and unfair that no action is taken against the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.”

The use of injunctive orders should be seen, therefore, as an essential piece of the jigsaw. They enable both the immediate protection of the child from the person involved in CSE they should also act as a deterrent to dissuade and disrupt the abusive and exploitative practices of the perpetrators.

As with secure accommodation orders, the use of injunctive orders should not be regarded as a ‘one size fits all’ approach nor should their granting prevent active pursuit of other steps to build a larger protective network either for the individual child or for children and vulnerable young adults in the wider community.  Local authorities and police forces should consider the other available civil and criminal remedies and powers.  These injunctions themselves were drafted with an eye towards the provisions in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (anti social behaviour orders) and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (sexual offences prevention orders and risk of sexual harm orders). [Note that these orders themselves will be replaced by sexual harm prevention orders and sexual risk orders when the relevant provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 are brought into operation.]

Education (not limited to the children seen to be at risk) and engagement of the community and local businesses with the issues should also be regarded as important tools in the process of disruption and prevention.

As all lawyers will recognise, the obtaining of a court order is just the start.  His Lordship referred to the need to demonstrate that there is a real prospect that something will be gained from the orders.  He was satisfied that the local authority and police can and would ensure that the orders were obeyed and in his eyes the gains would be:

i) the protection of the child and other vulnerable young females;

ii) the prevention of the 10 respondents from engaging in CSE; and

iii) the deterrent to other adult males from engaging in CSE.

Background to this specific case
Unsurprisingly the child in this case had a turbulent upbringing. She was a looked after child, although it should be noted that in theory the use of the inherent jurisdiction in this way is not limited to a child who is in the care of a local authority. She had a significant past history that demonstrated that she was a vulnerable young woman at a continuing risk of sexual exploitation. She had come to the attention of the police as a result of repeated incidents where she was reported as missing.

Due to her repeat absconding and association with older adult males, her situation became increasingly difficult and was causing extreme concern to the police and local authority, provoking the desire to find another way to secure protection for her.

The ten male respondents to the local authority’s applications were identified as having been connected with this one child in the following circumstances:

  • three of the respondents were found with the child at a hotel;
  • two of the respondents were apprehended in the early hours of the morning after the child was observed leaving their vehicle;
  • two of the respondents approached the child in the early hours of the morning in their car and arranged to take her to a hotel where she was subsequently found with one of them;
  • the child was found in the vicinity of another respondent’s car in the early hours of the morning;
  • as found by the judge, one of the men had sexual intercourse with the child; and
  • the final respondent, who did not appear at any hearing, was found by the court to have been seriously involved in the sexual exploitation of the child with a history of him having driven her to another part of the country; the child having been located at his address when missing; and he having bought her gifts.

Save for one of the men, the age difference between the child and the men involved ranged from 10 to 23 years.

Balance of probabilities
In reaching the factual conclusions that he did in the case of each of the respondents Keehan J confirmed that the standard of proof to be applied was the balance of probabilities as defined by the Supreme Court in Re B [2013] UKSC 33.

The evidence presented in support of the applications included social work and police statements reflecting the multi-agency co-operative approach in the preparation of the case.   Inevitably the local authority applications relied heavily upon direct observations of various police officers and their written and oral evidence.

Whilst the child was the connecting link between each of the cases, save where the hearing was limited to the principles of reporting, the cases were heard separately from each other with the evidence provided to each respondent restricted to that involving him or his direct co-respondents.

The child did not give evidence in the proceedings but was at various stages separately represented.

At an early stage directions were given to place an onus on the respondents to individually set out their connection with the child, how they came to be in contact with her and to explain the circumstances of the events which brought them before the court.

Keehan J found that the men had been engaged in the sexual exploitation of the child; that they were grooming her and preparing to engage in sexual activity with her.

Reporting restriction orders and publicity
Whilst initially commencing in chambers with private hearings, in the light of the clear public interest in the subject matter the hearings soon moved to open court.  Until findings of fact were made and final injunction orders granted, reporting restriction orders prevented the identification of the respondents.  The child was subject to wider protection and consideration will be given in a further hearing to the issue of whether the protection should be extended beyond her minority.

This case attracted widespread media interest not only due to the content of the injunctions but also due to the impact of the discharge of the reporting restriction orders (RROs).   There are now no reporting restriction orders limiting what the media can publish about the respondents.

The Press Association addressed the court in support of the lifting of the RROs protecting the identity of the respondents due to the fact the they are exceptional orders to have in proceedings heard in open court and given the clear public interest in proceedings concerning child sexual exploitation. The respondents and the West Midlands Police objected to the publication of the respondents’ names. The police submitted that there was a risk to the respondents if their names were published and this risk could extend beyond the respondents to their families. The respondents supported this argument.

The judgment provides a helpful analysis of the impact of the competing human rights pursuant to Articles 2, 3, 8 and 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and their application in this case. The judge was not satisfied that there was a real risk to lives of the respondents on the evidence presented to him. Furthermore, the respondents’ right to respect for private and family life did not outweigh the public’s right to know about the proceedings pursuant to Article 10 of the Convention.

At paragraph 152-153 Keehan J notes:

“The sexual exploitation of young females by much older men attracts very considerable and widespread public interest. The extent of such activities around the country is only now emerging. I am satisfied that there are exceedingly powerful arguments in favour of the public knowing the details of cases of child sexual exploitation and in respect of proceedings held in open court.

“I have considered the competing rights and the arguments made in support of each. I am in no doubt that the balance in this falls clearly and decisively in favour of the article 10 rights of the press and broadcast media. Accordingly I discharge the RROs in respect of each respondent. There are no restrictions on what the media may report about any of them.”

Multi-agency approach
In the instant case the local authority and the police worked closely together to establish the whereabouts of the child when missing, to flag up the risks at multi-agency meetings and to draw together and make available the evidence and witnesses from various sources necessary to pursue the applications.

The interim and final injunctions have all been served upon the West Midlands Police, with the approval of the court, to act as a further deterrent and enforcement aid in the event of a breach of the injunctions. This does not mean that there is a power of arrest.  Breach of the orders will need to be dealt with as a contempt of court.

Such multi-agency co-operation is crucial in combating CSE. The need and ability to share information across professional borders and geographical boundaries to protect vulnerable children and young adults is vital. It is a unifying recommendation within the reports and enquiries highlighted above. The close working in this case between the police officers, social workers and legal teams has underlined for those involved the benefits that flow from face to face discussions between differing disciplines.

The court acknowledged the efforts behind the scenes in the concluding paragraphs of the judgment in this manner:

“I wish to praise…the degree of close and effective co-operation between the police and the local authority.  It has been a model of its type and has played a crucial role in bringing these proceedings to a successful conclusion.”

___________________

Heather Popley

With contributions from Lorna Meyer QC and Stefano Nuvoloni. All three authors are members of No 5 Chambers and acted for the local authority.

30/12/14

Specialists dealing with 64 current Rotherham child sexual exploitation cases

Published November 7, 2014 by JS2

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More than 60 children in Rotherham are involved in ongoing sexual exploitation cases, new figures have revealed.

Rotherham Council’s child sexual exploitation team had 64 open cases in September – up on the 53 it was dealing with in May.

Details have been revealed in a report going to Coun Christine Beaumont, cabinet member for children and education services, on Monday.

The report also showed that 156 children have been reported to have run away from home or care between July and September, with 240 incidents recorded.

The number of children running away has increased from the first quarter of the year, when 146 young people were reported to be involved in 314 incidents.

It comes as the council’s children and young people’s service announced it is now facing a £3.5 million overspend in its budget – largely due to extra costs in placing vulnerable children in care placements away from the town, often to safeguard them from abusers.

Last month, the overspend for the year was estimated to be £2.8m – but has now increased again.

The council is spending £2.5m more than planned on providing out of authority residential placements, with an additional £359,000 going on independent fostering placements.

There are currently 32 children from Rotherham in out-of-area placements, with 106 in independent foster care.

A report by finance manager Joanne Robertson said: “The recruitment of in-house foster and adoptive carers remains a challenge and we must always ensure a high quality of placements.

“Our decisions to place children with independent fostering agencies and in residential out of authority establishments will always be in the context of the best interests of our children.

“The budget can only be an estimate given its volatile nature. For example, one out-of-authority residential placement for a child with very complex needs can now cost up to £364,000 per annum.”

Concerns were raised in the Jay Report about the practice of using out-of-area placements to protect abused children.

The inquiry said while the strategy could be successful in some cases, there were other occasions where such placements actually increased the risks to children.

Rotherham Council is also in the process of recruiting a new manager to oversee its response to child sexual exploitation cases, chairing strategy meetings and overseeing cases of missing children.

The safeguarding children leader will be paid between £35,000 and £38,000 a year.

Gripping play warns Halton pupils about child sexual exploitation

Published November 6, 2014 by JS2

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A GRIPPING drama about risk-taking aims to make Halton pupils aware of child sexual exploitation.

The play, Risking It All, was performed by community theatre company 2 Engage for 100 teenage students at The Grange School in Runcorn on Monday.

Pupils were invited to explore what they saw in a question and answer session afterwards. They identified the risks of the young people and families portrayed in the drama.

The hard-hitting play will be seen by all secondary pupils in Runcorn and Widnes as part of a campaign to make young people of the danger signs to watch out for.

The drama highlights the importance of internet safety and the risks of inappropriate relationships, substance and alcohol abuse.

Halton Youth Provision is also running sexual exploitation awareness sessions with young people in schools and in the community.

Halton Safeguarding Children’s Board commissioned the drama to help pupils recognise the signs and behaviour of child sexual exploitation.

Halton Council and partners, including the police are focusing on schools and those working with young people.

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Packs have been distributed to all secondary schools, offering advice and guidance on what they can do to help young people who they believe may be in danger of being sexually exploited.

Work has already been carried out as part of the campaign to raise awareness amongst young people about child sexual exploitation, explain what it is and offer advice and support to victims, potential victims and their family and friends.

Further information about the campaign is available at knowandsee.co.uk. If you are concerned that someone you know may be at risk of child sexual exploitation contact Cheshire Police on 101.

Crimestoppers and Humberside Police tackling child sexual exploitation

Published November 6, 2014 by JS2

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Independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers is today launching a campaign to support Humberside Police in tackling Child Sexual Exploitation.

Working alongside partner agencies including the local authorities, the NHS and the High Sheriff of East Riding of Yorkshire, the awareness campaign is being rolled out across the whole of the Humberside Police force area staring with events today in Scunthorpe and Grimsby.

The aim of the campaign is to help members of the public recognise possible signs of CSE through a range of media resources including posters, leaflets, billboards, bus stops and calling cards that are being distributed across the area to help spread the message.

Chief Constable Justine Curran said: “Humberside Police is committed to preventing child sexual exploitation, helping victims and bringing offenders to justice.

“The issue of child sexual exploitation is here and now. It can affect any child, anytime, anywhere regardless of their social or ethnic background and we all have to work together to protect our young people and to educate them about their choices.

“Child sexual exploitation does take place in the Humberside Policing area and a huge amount of work is being done to tackle it. We have centralised our Protecting Vulnerable People unit to make sure we have a consistent approach across the force and we have focused specialist officers on identifying suspects and potential victims, working on preventing and resolving cases and offering support to victims and their families.

“Working closely with our partners in schools, social services and other areas, we are all absolutely committed to eradicating this devastating abuse across our communities.

“But as a community, we all have a responsibility to get involved in prevention. Men and women target vulnerable young people, who often feel isolated and unloved. They often make initial contact online and gain young people’s trust by listening to their problems, complimenting them, offering them affection and giving them gifts. Once they have gained their trust they manipulate and control them, sometimes through the use of alcohol and drugs, into sexual activity. Very often these young people believe they are in a loving relationship and do not know they are a victim.

“Offenders also manipulate young people by treating them as adults. They may give them expensive gifts and invite them to parties, offering them alcohol and drugs, before taking advantage of them when they are under the influence. Sometimes offenders operate alone, other times in groups.

“It is important to put stereotypes out of our minds. Talking about “dirty old men” is not helpful. Both adult men and women of varying ages engage in this type of offending. There has been a lot of media coverage recently on gangs of Asian men engaged in this type of activity in other areas of the country. Although we must confront and be open about that particular issue, the fact that it hits the headlines does not mean it is the most common form of abuse, or that it is all we should focus on. It is important to point out that 80 per cent of this type of offending is carried out by white men acting alone.

“Along with the police, parents have a responsibility to educate their children about sexual relationships and the lifestyle choices they make. They also have a responsibility to know what their children are doing online and who they are talking to, giving them sensible advice on how to stay safe.

“We all have a responsibility to be vigilant in our communities, bringing suspicious behavior to the attention of the police and other agencies. It is easy to ignore activity like young people visiting an adult in a house on a regular basis, or adults being in the company of children in the community when something about it doesn’t quite add up. Please do not dismiss what you see as paranoia, call us and let us make that assessment.

“We will continue to target offenders and prosecute them, helping to drive the message home to everyone that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable and that the police will take swift and effective action.”

For more information go to http://www.humberside.police.uk/tellsomeone

  • by Stephanie Bateman

Child sexual exploitation to be discussed in-depth by Hertfordshire County Council

Published October 16, 2014 by JS2

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Figures from Herts police showed that 140 referrals regarding on-street grooming were made to police across the county between April 2013 and August 2014.

The problems posed by child grooming and sexual exploitation will be discussed in-depth at a special topic board meeting next year, Herts County Council has decided.

Councillors will meet in March to discuss child sexual exploitation and grooming ‘in its broadest possible sense’.

This will cover everything from sexting to trafficking, highlighting problems which have arisen in the county and how they are being dealt with.

The announcement was made at an annual child safe guarding meeting which took place on Thursday.

A report posted online before the meeting by the county council revealed information from a report into grooming by the police HALO team, who tackle child sexual exploitation.

Figures from Herts police showed that 140 referrals regarding on-street grooming were made to police across the county between April 2013 and August 2014.

Of these, 12 high risk victims were then referred on to SEARCH, a multi-agency support group working with Herts police. Stevenage was labelled ‘at threat’ of grooming and had the third highest referral rate of victims.

Det Con Stuart Orton from Herts police said it was not thought that gangs were operating in the county and there was no sign of girls being trafficked between towns.

He also said that officers were already working with a group of female victims in Stevenage.

Phil Picton, who chairs the Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, said: “I would also like to reassure everyone that there is currently no evidence of any kind of endemic, organised child sexual exploitation in Hertfordshire but we continue to remain vigilant and would ask the community to be our eyes and ears and report any concerns.”

By Helen Wright