05/11/2013

Child Sexual Exploitation Inquiry Chair Announced

Kathleen Marshall has been named to lead the independent inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Northern Ireland.

Mrs Marshall was the former Commissioner for Children and Young People in Scotland and was also part of the team which undertook the Youth Justice Review in Northern Ireland.

The independent inquiry was announced by Health Minister Edwin Poots in September, following the arrests of more than 30 people in an investigation into the sexual exploitation of children and young people in Northern Ireland.

At least 22 young people aged between 13 and 18 may have been abused.

The Health Minister made the announcement in the Assembly today.

Speaking after the Minister delivered his statement, Mrs Marshall said: "I am very pleased to have been appointed to lead the inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland. It is a distressing subject, which recent events have shown to be of great public concern. Some excellent work has already been done in Northern Ireland to identify and address the problem, but there is much that we still do not know, and need to know if we are to understand its nature and extent, and take effective steps to tackle it.

"During my career as a lawyer specialising in children’s issues, I have had a particular focus on child protection. My five years as Scotland’s first Commissioner for Children and Young People reinforced my commitment to listening to what young people themselves have to say as an essential part of understanding the world they live in and the situations they face.

"My previous work on youth justice in Northern Ireland introduced me to many of the very vibrant organisations working with and for young people and their families. I am confident that, with their support, and the commitment of the Northern Ireland Assembly, we can make progress on this issue."

She explained: "My priority is to set up an easy and efficient way of allowing people to find out how the inquiry is progressing, and how they can contribute to it. I am eager to engage with young people, their parents and supportive professionals and agencies, to help me understand what is happening, and what can best be done to protect children and young people from child sexual exploitation. In the coming weeks I will issue a formal call for evidence regarding child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland."

(IT/CD)

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