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Legal expert calls for more action to tackle child sex abuse
A legal expert who specialises in helping victims of child abuse has said more needs to be done to combat the sexual exploitation of children which, according to a recent study, is ‘happening all over the country.’
Angela Dobbs, who is a member of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, was speaking after the Deputy Children’s Commissioner warned the Home Affairs Select Committee that there was disturbing evidence of widespread child sexual exploitation throughout the UK.
“We know according to police statistics that up to 60 child sex offences are reported every day and that a third of sexual crimes in England and Wales are committed against children,” said Angela, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP and joint head of the specialist department which helps victims of abuse. “However, this latest study has shown that the scale of the problem is far beyond what any of us have even dared to imagine.”
The research, conducted by the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for a report due before the Home Affairs Select Committee in September, uncovered a wealth of evidence showing the appalling levels at which children up and down the country are being abused on a daily basis.
Using London as an example, the research uncovered hard evidence that serial rape and other sexual initiation rites for female gang members, with some as young as 11, was both prevalent and commonplace while grooming of children via online chat rooms and social networking sites was a massive and ever growing problem.
“Any offence involving the sexual exploitation of a child is a truly abhorrent and sickening crime,” said Angela. “Although this report gives us more of an insight into the scourge of child abuse, the true scale of the problem is worryingly unknown as by its very nature scores of children go missing each year in an underworld of systematic abuse. Much of this abuse goes tragically unreported and less than 10 per cent of all reported child sex offences result in a conviction. This is intolerable and needs to end.”
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee is already investigating child protection failings in Greater Manchester following the trial and conviction at Liverpool Crown Court of nine Rochdale men in April. The men were sentenced to between four and nineteen years after being convicted of running a child exploitation ring which could have involved up to 47 girls, with some as young as 13.
Child exploitation and the issue of grooming have featured prominently in the news ever since details of the abuse, which happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009, came to light. “The Rochdale case has been labelled as only ‘the tip of the iceberg,’” said Angela, “with one senior police officer stating: ‘there isn’t a town, village or hamlet in which children are not being sexually exploited.’
“These past few months have seen a welcome shift in public awareness regarding the issue of child abuse but we need to use the leverage and momentum of the current media debate to do more to ensure that those most vulnerable in our society are better protected,” added Angela. “Rather than focusing on the ethnicity of perpetrators we need to recognise that trafficking around the UK is becoming more common, grooming - particularly online - is becoming ever more prevalent and sophisticated, and child prostitution more organised.”
The Deputy Children’s Commissioner said that all communities and ethnic groups were affected by the sexual abuse of children, citing evidence gleaned from cases in Derby, Rotherham, Birmingham and Dewsbury.Following the Commissioner’s claims, the Home Affairs Select Committee’s Chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, promised an inquiry and said their investigation would be widened to look at the UK as a whole.
“We have a duty of responsibility to protect our children from the nightmare of child abuse,” said Angela. “When, according to NSPCC statistics, a child is abused every 20 minutes, we are clearly failing in that responsibility. Radical steps are needed to improve both prosecution procedures and conviction rates and we must ensure that those professionals who work with children, including police, schools and social services are better trained at early identification of this kind of abuse.
One in 20 children in the UK are abused before they reach the age of 18,” added Angela. “This is a truly horrifying statistic and illustrates in the starkest possible terms that we as a society need to do more to fully address the scale and horror of the problem and wake up to the fact that child abuse is rife and happening as we speak -affecting thousands of children who are being subjected to the worst kinds of appalling and often violent abuse each and every day throughout the country.”
How can Fentons help?
Fentons Solicitors LLP has a department dedicated to helping victims of child abuse pursue claims for compensation where the abuse has taken place in schools, care homes, the church or similar institutions.
If you would like to talk to one of our experts in confidence, then please contact us on 0161 684 6643 or 0161 238 6440.
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