Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Sexually exploited children are still being failed
The Home Affairs Committee published its report yesterday: ‘Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming’ (Second Report, Session 2013-14, HC 68-I).
The Committee concluded that:
Recent criminal cases have laid bare the appalling cost paid by victims for past catastrophic multi-agency failures and there are still places in the UK where victims of child sexual exploitation are being failed by statutory agencies. The police, social services and the Crown Prosecution Service must all bear responsibility for the way in which vulnerable children have been left unprotected by the system.
Both Rochdale and Rotherham Councils were inexcusably slow to realise that the widespread, organised sexual abuse of children, many of them in the care of the local authority, was taking place on their doorstep. This is due in large part to a woeful lack of professional curiosity. It is no defense for Rochdale and Rotherham managers to say that they had no knowledge of what was taking place, as they are ultimately responsible and must be held accountable for the appalling consequences of their indifference to the suffering of vulnerable children.
The Ministry of Justice ought to implement a number of reforms to court processes includingsection 28 of of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (known as “Pigot 2”); the introduction of specialist courts either for child sexual exploitation cases or for sexual offences as a whole; and invite the Lord Chief Justice to consider recommending to the Judicial College that specific training on child sexual exploitation cases be developed and provided.
There is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation. It is a vile crime which is perpetrated by a small number of individuals, and abhorred by the vast majority, from every ethnic group. However, evidence presented to us suggests that there is a model of localised grooming of mainly Pakistani-heritage men targeting young White girls. We discovered that this is just one of a number of models of child sexual expoitation. Authorities should not focus on just one model of child sexual exploitation to the exclusion of others or they will become blinded to other patterns of abuse taking place. Stereotyping offenders as all coming from a particular background is as likely to perpetuate the problem as is a refusal to acknowledge that a particular group of offenders share a common ethnicity.
Prevention and early intervention in cases of children at risk of sexual exploitation is essential and all local authorities must ensure that there is sufficient funding for prevention within the budget of any multi-agency team tasked with tackling child sexual exploitation.
Chair of the Committee
The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:
“This has been a harrowing inquiry in which we have heard of children being treated in an appalling way not just by their abusers but, because of catastrophic failures by the very agencies that society has appointed to protect them. We were shocked to learn that it is still happening, in every part of the country. The quality of the response to the abuse depends on where you live and that is inexcusable. We must not accept assurances that the situation is improving without hard evidence. Race is a factor but it is one of many in cases of child sexual exploitation.
Officials who fail to act, for example in places like Rotherham or Rochdale, must not be allowed to evade responsibility through early retirement or resignation for other reasons and should not be paid compensation of any kind.
Children only have one chance at childhood, once that childhood is stolen by the horrific crime of sexual exploitation, it cannot be returned. Protection of these vulnerable children must be our first priority."