National Child Exploitation Awareness Day
This year National Child Exploitation Awareness Day took place on the 18th March 2023 to raise awareness of the complexities surrounding this particular form of child abuse including Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and consider the progress which has been made and improvements which are needed.
20 March 2023
What is CSE?
According to the statutory guidance produced by the Department for Education, CSE is a form of sexual abuse that occurs ‘’where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance in power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into taking part in sexual activity, in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or through violence or the threat of violence. CSE … can affect children, both male and female and can include children who have been moved (commonly referred to as trafficking) for the purpose of exploitation.”
“CSE can occur over time or be a one-off occurrence and may happen without the child’s immediate knowledge, for example through others sharing videos or images of them on social media.”
With the above definition in mind, this is why CSE is one of the most complex crimes as there is no ‘typical’ crime or victim but rather a relationship in which a victim is sometimes gradually groomed over a period of time and can be exploited in a number of different ways and is not limited to purely sexual exploitation/abuse.
In October 2022, the NSPCC reported that police data showed that crimes with an element of CSE in the South West of England had almost tripled within the last year. Across England and Wales, it was revealed that there were 17,486 crimes logged by police where children had been sexually exploited which was an increase of 10% on the previous year. However, although the data shows an increase in the recorded crimes, this may arguably demonstrate a positive thing in that more crimes involving CSE are being reported to police.
Cases we have been involved with
Criminal convictions for offenders involved in committing CSE have been reported in various areas across the country including Bradford, Oldham and Rotherham.
One of the most horrific cases which highlighted the existence and impact of CSE was the exposition of the Rochdale grooming scandal in 2012. Nine men were convicted and sentenced for the horrendous abuse and exploitation of young girls in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The case raised awareness of the criminal networks behind these crimes and brought about a national conversation regarding the police, local authorities and professionals in their response when investigating and in some cases failing to investigate.
In 2014, we represented one of the survivors in their case against Rochdale Borough Council in securing compensation for the abuse that they had suffered whilst living in care and the failure of social services to protect them from further abuse.
We have also represented many survivors of CSE in their cases against various local authorities in order to help them rebuild their lives.
In February 2022, the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), published their report into CSE by Organised Networks. The inquiry focused on specific areas of the country and our specialist abuse team represented a mother of a victim of CSE in the Warwickshire area within the IICSA investigation.
The report concluded that CSE was widespread across the country and made several related recommendations to the government including updated guidance on CSE (including the definition to make clear that the child was controlled, coerced, manipulated or deceived into the sexual activity).
Therefore, the report highlighted that CSE is not simply a problem in the north of the England, but a national issue which requires a large-scale strategy to properly tackle the issue with real funding, resources, training and willpower on the part of the authorities to make headway.
In January 2020, the government published Part One of an Assurance Review of Operation Augusta. This was an independent review into the response to child sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester in 2004 by both the police and social services.
The Review highlighted that the authorities had failed to do all they could to protect victims previously and launched Operation Green Jacket in order to review historic cases of CSE.
In June 2022, Oldham Council published their report into CSE which found significant failings by both the council and Greater Manchester Police.
Language used by practitioners is key in assessing the vulnerability of a child and we have personally seen phrases such as ‘lifestyle choices’ and ‘risky behaviour’ within victims’ records which fails to acknowledge the reality that the victim is often being subjected to threats of or actual physical and/or sexual violence.
Last year, the government announced further updates to the Online Safety Bill which has the intention of improving internet safety and proposes imposing a statutory duty of care on social media companies to keep children and young people safe online. The impact that this will have in preventing children being exploited online and in person is difficult to assess at this stage until the Bill is finalised and implemented into law.
In the UK there is no legal requirement for anyone who suspects or has knowledge of abuse to report this to the police. A mandatory reporting duty would create a legal requirement on those working with children such as teachers, health workers, nurses, scout leaders, football coaches etc where they have a reasonable suspicion of abuse to report this to the police who then have a legal responsibility to investigate this.
This would help prevent CSE and other forms of child abuse and prevent children from being let down by adults that they are often looking to for support but who fail to act where there is concern that abuse is taking place.
How Slater and Gordon can help
Our expert abuse solicitors work with victims and survivors of abuse every day and have decades of experience fighting for compensation for our clients. We have dedicated solicitors with vast experience in dealing with child abuse claims.
Our specialist public inquiries team has acted for many individuals and organisations in several high-profile public inquiries, including the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), the Manchester Arena Bombing Inquiry, and the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
We encourage anyone impacted by abuse to contact our team of specialist abuse claims solicitors. Our experts are experienced in handling cases involving highly sensitive matters, including sexual abuse. They professionally and compassionately support victims of abuse to obtain compensation from the people and organisations responsible for their injuries. To get in contact for a confidential discussion of your potential case, please call us on 0330 107 5008.