UK: Child victims failed by justice system, says Barnardo's

Summary: A children's charity says child victims of sexual exploitation have been "failed by the system" because convictions are so hard to achieve.

Official figures show there were 89 child sexual exploitation convictions in England and Wales in 2009.

But Barnardo's says it is aware of 2,756 child victims of offences such as grooming and trafficking.

The government said a plan for police and other agencies on how to better tackle the problem is to be published.

According to Barnardo's, sexual exploitation cases were often dropped because of insufficient evidence, and there was an over-reliance on the victims as witnesses.

Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said the children were being let down "terribly".

"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."

The term child sexual exploitation covers a range of activity.

It also includes arranging a child sexual offence, meeting a child following grooming, paying for the sexual services of a child and inciting child prostitution or pornography.

Mrs Carrie said trials could be "traumatic and painful experiences for children".

"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."

The charity intends to launch a study to assess the role of the local safeguarding children's boards (LSCB) in securing prosecutions against perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.

LSCBs are statutory bodies responsible for protecting children and young people from significant harm and for promoting their welfare.

Statistics show that for prosecutions brought under other sections of the Sexual Offences Act in 2009, 41% resulted in convictions for rape of a child under 13, and 37% for sexual assault of a child under 13, and a total of 501 people were found guilty.

The Ministry of Justice said overall more than 1,500 people were convicted of sexual offences against children in 2009.

A spokesperson said: "We are determined to support children within the justice system. They are only required to give evidence where absolutely necessary, and measures taken to protect them include children giving evidence by video-link, or being supported by an intermediary in court."



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