Anti-child sexual exploitation campaign poster
Anti-child sexual exploitation campaign poster
 

Sixteen offences of child sexual exploitation have been recorded in Kirklees since December 2012.

Kirklees Council, like other councils, is looking closely at cases of CSE after the scandal exposed in Rotherham.

There, some 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2003 and Rotherham staff feared being labelled ‘racist’ if they noted the Asian ethnicity of the majority of abusers.

Alison O’Sullivan, Kirklees director for children and adults; Paul Johnson, of Kirklees family support and protection service; and Superintendent Ged McManus of Kirklees Police, revealed to the Examiner the situation in Kirklees.

In addition to the 16 recorded offences linked to CSE, there are currently 22 young girls - half in care - potentially at risk of sexual exploitation and being supported by social workers to protect them.

A further 45 more - including three boys - are being monitored to prevent them joining the ‘at risk’ group.

Statistics show children at risk of CSE has decreased since 2011 when there were 53 at risk.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “The more we’ve learned about CSE the more we’ve learned how best to tackle it. Obviously if we look back now, with the greater knowledge and understanding we have, there are matters we could have dealt with differently. We are constantly improving and learning.”

Kirklees is sure staff do not fear reporting suspicions. Mr Johnson said: “I have absolute confidence that the fear factor for reporting isn’t on the agenda in Kirklees.

“Even before the Rotherham situation we were aware of concerns and I feel assured our staff know how to report their concerns.

Rotherham
Rotherham
 

“I’ve not come across a situation where colleagues have been circumspect about raising concerns and all of our staff are well aware that the welfare and wellbeing of the child is paramount.”

Looked after children are vulnerable targets and Mr Johnson explained why: “Children in care may not may have had a stable and positive relationship with adults and if their feeling of self-worth isn’t very good then they will be susceptible to an adult who seems friendly, offers them gifts and befriends them.

“It is something our social workers look out for.”

In line with national guidelines victims of CSE can be aged up to 18.

CSE is defined as a form of child abuse which can involve young people receiving a gift or somewhere to stay in exchange for them performing sexual activities.

Often the young people are groomed - unaware they are being targeted and instead believing they are in a relationship. It can be months before the perpetrator’s intention is clear - and much longer for the victim to realise they are the victim of a crime.

Police say there are 33 potential perpetrators being monitored: 25 are Asian, two black and six white, mainly aged under 30 and around half unemployed.

Two of the potential perpetrators are women.

Supt McManus said: “The issue of potential perpetrators is a grey area, we’re not saying these 33 are committing offences against anyone. They are people who we’ve got some concern about and are monitoring.”

Ms O’Sullivan added: “Prosecutions are fraught with complexities and in many cases, certainly at the beginning, the victims don’t see themselves as victims.

“In the beginning a perpetrator will befriend them... the victims don’t recognise it as grooming or see it in relation to sexual abuse, but it will progress into an exploitative relationship.

“For prosecution evidence is needed but it can be made difficult if the victim is not able or willing to make a statement to the police.”

Both council and police agree increasing awareness will help people recognise the signs and encourage victims to come forward.

They agree social media provides opportunity for abuse, but also of offenders being caught. Supt McManus added: “If you are an abuser you leave a trace of that abuse online. We will find it and we will use it to bring you to justice.

“We certainly take it seriously and we’ve got good people working on it.”