29/06/2011

'Out Of Mind, Out Of Sight' Report Highlights On Street Grooming

The UK’s national centre for child protection today published the findings of a six month investigation into the devastating crime that has widely been called “on street grooming”.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre announced its intention to carry out a thematic assessment in January 2011 after growing public concern of a trend whereby groups of men were reportedly grooming and sexually exploiting children across the UK.

The review covered 65 pieces of research literature from 1998 and 24 policy guidance documents from 2001. CEOP also requested relevant data on cases of child sexual exploitation since 1 January 2008, from all police forces, LSCBs, children’s services and voluntary service sector providers.

‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’, published today, shows that while some areas of the UK have victim focused services with agencies effectively working together to identify victims of child sexual exploitation this is not the case in all areas.

‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’ acknowledges the major challenges faced by agencies in identifying victims of child sexual exploitation and in gaining the trust of victims to build successful cases against offenders. The grooming process itself often means some victims don’t see themselves as victims of sexual abuse and are unwilling to disclose information to police or other authorities.

Each local authority has a Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB). These have responsibility for coordinating the protection of children from sexual exploitation through agencies working together, under clear statutory guidance. The assessment revealed that a comparatively small number were effective in this. As a result, data on child exploitation may not be collected or easily obtainable, with no single system used to record data on child sexual exploitation.

Membership of LSCBs includes the police, the Local Probation Trusts, Youth Offending Teams, NHS Trusts, and the Connexions Service with representation from schools and involvement from voluntary and community sector organisations.

Peter Davies, Chief Executive of the CEOP centre, said: “We set out on this exercise to gather together what can currently be known. We wanted to explore in particular any trends, themes or patterns of offending or vulnerability and to share that understanding in a collaborative way that would allow us all to think objectively about how we safeguard children from this brutal crime.

“In this complex crime you cannot tackle it or support victims unless you can see this crime, and in order to see this crime agencies need to look for it.

“Child sexual exploitation is child sex abuse – no matter who carries out the act, no matter what the background of the offender. The effects are devastating and abuse can continue into adulthood. We need to focus on that and break down the barriers that stop any child from coming forward. Agencies need the awareness be able to identify the signs of abuse and the services to build a supportive relationship with victims. Vulnerable victims may not present themselves as victims, may be fearful of investigations or the court process and we need to create an environment throughout the whole of the UK where this is no longer the case.”

Mr Davies added: “I hope that our work over the last six months shows the complexity of this crime. We have applauded and highlighted best practice – from the police service and local safeguarding boards – and advocate that more needs and can be done to share that practice and to increase that understanding.

“We are all in this together – whether from a national or local perspective, from voluntary or statutory sectors. We all need to work together, share our knowledge, and listen to victims to ensure their voice is heard, and so that offenders are held responsible for this terrible crime.”

(BMcN/KMcA)

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