A cross-party group to oversee child sexual exploitation issues is launching in Kirklees.

Members of Kirklees Council were told that there are 22 young girls, half of which are in care, potentially at risk of sexual exploitation. A further 45, including three boys, are being monitored to prevent them joining the ‘at risk’ group.

There have been 16 recorded offences of child sexual exploitation in Kirklees since December 2012.

Councillors discussed the situation in the wake of the Rotherham scandal and all were united in their support for staff working with victims and potential victims, and support for the police to tackle the potential culprits, with 33 known to police.

Clr Jean Calvert, lead for children’s services, said: “The number of notified cases to date is relatively small, and the report shows that agencies in Kirklees have worked together for several years on a joint strategic approach.

“However, we know openness and honesty are essential in helping us to raise awareness of CSE, and of the risks that it can pose to children both here and nationally.”

Clr Julie Stewart-Turner, Newsome Green, said: “It’s hard to imagine what families must feel like when they’re faced with this situation and how distressing it is for the children. This council is never complacent and is willing to learn from others.”

Clr Jim Dodds, Denby Dale Conservative and former Cabinet member for children’s services, spoke of councillors’ role as corporate parents, which sees them responsible for vulnerable children.

He said: “How can we have that responsibility when the information we receive on safeguarding is sparse?

“What I do know is that all the cases that came to light during my tenure as Cabinet member were dealt with correctly. I am not saying mistakes were not made, because mistakes were made, some were procedural, others human error. The problem is the mistakes can be quite small, but in safeguarding the consequences can be great.

“We must stop hiding behind the phrase ‘sensitive and confidential’ – we are dealing with the lives of young people here.”

Clr Nicola Turner, Colne Valley Lib Dem and party leader, added: “We have to be proactive and it’s clear we are – the statistics look as if they are low, but clearly one child is too many.”

Clr David Sheard, council leader, said: “This is not about corporate responsibility, not all children are in the care of the council.

“We’ve got to understand how important confidentiality is… obviously we need every report about professionals talking to each other, but not talking to 69 councillors on children in care or at risk.”

He added that bureaucracy wasn’t an issue as failings elsewhere had been when bureaucracy had broken down.

CASE ONE:

Victim A, female, aged 15.

The offences occurred after the victim was given alcohol supplied by six suspects, who took her to a house and committed a series of sexual assaults over 24 hours.

Police recovered the victim the following day but, fearful, it was several days before she made a complaint.

The victim was then threatened by the culprits that pictures of her naked would be posted on Facebook, as part of the victim’s ordeal had been filmed by one of the suspects.

Considerable forensic efforts were made and evidence was found to support charges against three men.

After the initial submissions to the jury, all three men pleaded guilty with one jailed for 11 for rape; another jailed for four years for sexual activity and sexual assault; and the other jailed for three years for sexual activity and possession of the indecent images.

CASE TWO

Victim B, female, aged 13 and victim C, male, aged 12.

The parent of both victims reported their concerns to the police and it was quickly established that B had been on various internet chat room sites and had been communicating with an unknown person.

Initially B believed that she was speaking with a similar-aged female but it was a man aged 60 years. The suspect was in possession of many indecent images of B and C and he sent these images to both children to prove it. The images were accompanied by many threats to send images via Facebook to friends and family unless they continued to carry out sexual acts via a web cam.

Police officers searched the suspect’s property (located outside of the authority) and found a library of photos.

In 2013 the perpetrator received 14 years and eight months imprisonment and is required to register on the Sex Offender Register for life.

CASE THREE

Victims M and N, both female and aged 15 years at time of offence.

A 22-year-old male befriended M via her Blackberry phone. The suspect arranged a liaison with M, which N also attended. They were picked up in a taxi by the suspect and were subsequently reported missing.

The police were directed to a local hotel, where substantial forensic recovery took place, including from CCTV. The suspect was arrested near the site. In 2013 he was convicted of sexual activity with a child and abduction and received three years nine months imprisonment.

Article source: The Huddersfield Daily Examiner 3rd October 2014


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