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Child victims of sexual exploitation ‘failed by the system'

Release Date: 15 Jun 2011

Thousands of children who are sexually exploited never see their perpetrators brought to justice, according to Barnardo’s.

Convictions brought for child sexual exploitation totalled just 89* in England and Wales in 2009 when 2,756 children were known to have been abused.

Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said:

These children are being let down by the system.

"They are being failed twice; once by the failure to prevent them becoming victims in the first place and again by the failure to punish their abusers and secure justice.

"We need to see drastic changes to make sure the abusers who control such vulnerable children for sex and personal gain are brought to book."

Even when prosecutions were brought under other sections of the Sexual Offences Act during the same year, drop off rates were huge; only 41 per cent were found guilty of rape of a child under 13 and 37 per cent of prosecutions for sexual assault of a child under 13.**

Barnardo’s believes two significant reasons for such low conviction rates are that cases are dropped due to insufficient evidence and the over reliance of victims to act as witnesses.

Mrs Carrie continued:

We are expecting too much of children to carry the weight of court cases on their young shoulders.

"Trials can be traumatic and painful experiences for children – especially when multiple perpetrators are involved.

"And when children do have the courage to take the stand, we need to make sure that they have the support that they deserve the whole way through the process."

At present less than a quarter of the 144 local safeguarding children’s boards in England have a strategy for tackling child sexual exploitation.***

In Wales, Barnardo’s has been working closely with the Welsh Government and LSCBs to ensure that a more strategic approach is adopted, but there is still a long way to go for child sexual exploitation to be responded to strategically and consistently across the country’s local authority areas.

Mrs Carrie will announce in her speech at the Community Care Conference today that the UK’s biggest children’s charity is set to launch a study  which will assess the role of the local safeguarding children’s boards in securing prosecutions against perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, due out in spring 2012.

In particular, Barnardo’s wants to see these boards working towards a more effective multi-agency approach to present better evidence to secure convictions, which must be underpinned by Government legislation.


Notes to editors

1)This press release applies to England and Wales.

2)The term child sexual exploitation is used to cover a broad spectrum of activity from seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships or informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes through to serious, organised crime.

3)*MoJ data **MoJ data ***University of Bedfordshire data

4)CSE figures are collated according to the offence; arranging or facilitating a child sexual offence, meeting a child following grooming, paying for the sexual services of a child, causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography, controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography, arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography, arranging or facilitating travel within the UK of a person for sexual exploitation (trafficking). Other offences under the Sexual Offences Act aren’t included because data does not differentiate between CSE and intra-familial child abuse.

5)Barnardo’s Scotland has lodged a petition with the Scottish Parliament today.  The petition, ‘Cut them free’ - Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland’, is calling on the Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to commission new research on the nature and scope of child sexual exploitation in Scotland, as well as update government guidance for statutory bodies dealing with these issues.  The most current guidance on child sexual exploitation dates from 2003 and needs to be revised and refreshed to take account of our understanding of the issue and developments since then.

6)Since 2009, there have been three high profile CSE cases; five men were found guilty of child abuse in Derby, last year, nine men are being tried at Stafford Crown Court for child sexual exploitation - the case is expected to go on until August – and Greater Manchester Police has arrested and charged a group of men for child sexual exploitation as part of a major operation.

7)More information about Barnardo’s campaign can be found at

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