The scale of child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester is exposed today in a new report by campaigning MP Ann Coffey.
Better training and awareness amongst the police and the public has led to significant increases in reporting offences, identification of victims and offenders and intelligence tip-offs.
Fresh figures in ‘Real voices – Are they being heard?’ which is a follow up to the landmark ‘Real Voices’ report of 2014, reveal a fourfold increase in child sexual exploitation offences being reported or identified – but that could still be the tip of the iceberg because of under-reporting, especially amongst boys.
GMP are identifying more young people at risk of CSE than before. There are currently 1,732 young people identified or ‘flagged’ on the GMP computer as victims of or at risk of child sexual exploitation – almost trebled from 2015.
Other key findings in the report include:
- Double the number of known or suspected child sex offenders are being identified
- Significant delays of up to five months revealed in the examination of computers due to pressures on police
- The true extent of “sexting” amongst young people
- Chaos in the children’s home market as half of all children in need of a place are sent outside their local area
- A call for children to be included in the design of their services
Ms Coffey said:
“As the extent of the level of sexual offences, including child sexual exploitation, is revealed one still cannot fail to be shocked at the levels of sexual abuse of children in our communities. It is no longer hidden.
“Greater Manchester Police and agencies involved in the protection of children have undergone cultural changes in their approach to tackling child sexual exploitation over the past two to three years.
“This is evidenced by increased reporting of CSE offences, increased flagging of CSE victims, offenders and crimes on the police computer and increased intelligence reports.
“This indicates a growing awareness of CSE amongst the police, statutory agencies, the community and young people themselves who appear to have increased confidence to come forward to report abuse.”
Tony Lloyd, the Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner, who has focused on tackling child sexual exploitation, commissioned both Real Voices reports.
“This is an important and powerful report, which gives a true picture of the scale of child sexual exploitation in our communities. While the findings are shocking, it also shines a positive light on the innovative work police and other agencies are doing to tackle this issue, instilling confidence and hope in children and young people that we are here to protect and support them.
“I want to thank Ann Coffey for her hard work and commitment to this issue, giving young people across Greater Manchester a voice in the fight against exploitation and abuse.”
Further evidence of culture change is continuous awareness raising and ‘Myth busting’ by GMP including using victims and parents in training to learn where the police got things wrong. Experts are also used to provide training in understanding victim and offender behaviour.
GMP are increasingly focusing on creative ways to disrupt offenders associating with children.
They are using a variety of civil orders and disruption tactics such as Child Abduction Warning Notices; Sexual Harm Prevention Orders as well as licensing laws and closure orders on establishments like hotels.
Children have told police that Abduction Warning Notices helped them to say ‘No’ to meeting up with potential offenders whereas previously they would have felt pressurised to do so.
“This is excellent and signals a culture that accepts that prevention of CSE in the first place is vital before a child is harmed,” said Ms Coffey.
Since Real Voices there have been 10,269 pieces of intelligence received between October 2014 and June 2016, including anonymous public tip offs. Heightened awareness amongst the public is a result of strong messaging and training by GMP and Project Phoenix with workers in hotels, councils, shopping centres, taxi drivers, night time economy workers and housing associations as well as speaking to children in schools, youth clubs and colleges.
GMP have seen a big increase in the number of reports from hotel workers and especially from taxi drivers, who were unhappy about the stigma attached to them after the high-profile Rochdale sexual exploitation trial in 2012.
The first ‘Real Voices’ report caused shockwaves by identifying that child sexual exploitation had become a ’social norm’ in some communities in Greater Manchester. It called for a sea change in attitudes.