Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse publish Investigation Report into child sexual exploitation by organised networks
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, have published their Investigation Report, Child sexual exploitation by organised networks, February 2022
This investigation focuses on the nature and extent of, and institutional responses to, sexual exploitation of children by organised networks.
The Inquiry chose to base this investigation on areas which had not already been the subject of independent investigation (such as Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford). The intention was to obtain an accurate picture of current practice at a strategic level and through examination of individual cases, as well as drawing on wider knowledge about child sexual exploitation in England and Wales.
Six case study areas were chosen: Durham, Swansea, Warwickshire, St Helens, Tower Hamlets and Bristol. Eight themes were examined in each area:
- problem profiling and disruption of child sexual exploitation;
- empathy and concern for child victims;
- risk assessment, protection from harm and outcomes for children;
- missing children, return home interviews and children in care;
- male victims;
- children with disabilities;
- partnership working; and
- audit, review and performance improvement.
The report also considers the experiences of victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation by organised networks.
It concluded that “Children are sexually exploited by networks in all parts of England and Wales in the most degrading and destructive ways. Each of these acts is a crime. This investigation has revealed extensive failures by local authorities and police forces to keep pace with the pernicious and changing problem of the sexual exploitation of children by networks”.
The report makes six recommendations, summarised as follows:
- The government should amend the Sentencing Act 2020 to provide a mandatory aggravating factor in sentencing in the case of the commission of an offence under Part 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 relating to a child, where (1) the child was exploited, (2) ‘exploitation’ means the child was controlled, coerced, manipulated or deceived into sexual activity and (3) two or more persons were concerned in the exploitation.
- As referenced in its Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, the government should publish an enhanced version of its Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit as soon as possible.
- The Department for Education should review and publish an updated version of its guidance on child sexual exploitation. The update should specify that the core element of the definition of child sexual exploitation is that a child was controlled, coerced, manipulated or deceived into sexual activity.
- The Department for Education and the Welsh Government must ensure that their updated national guidance makes clear that signs that a child is being sexually exploited must never be treated as indications that a child is only ‘at risk’ of experiencing this harm.
- Police forces and local authorities in England and Wales must collect data on all cases of known or suspected child sexual exploitation and child sexual exploitation by networks. These data should be separated from other data sets, including data on child sexual abuse, and be disaggregated by the sex, ethnicity and disability of both the victim and perpetrator.
- The Department for Education should ban the placement in semi-independent and independent settings of children aged 16 and 17 who have experienced, or are at heightened risk of experiencing, sexual exploitation.