Jail terms proposed for those who ‘neglect’ sex abuse victims
SENIOR public officials who fail to protect children would face up to five years in jail under new measures being considered by the government.
Under the proposals, being unveiled by PM David Cameron, the crime of “wilful neglect” would be extended to cover children’s social care and education.
There would also be unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down.
Meanwhile a retired officer said police failed victims of an Oxford abuse gang.
The government’s new measures are a response to child abuse scandals in Rotherham, Oxford and elsewhere.
A national helpline will also be set up to enable professionals to report bad practice.
The proposals are being unveiled at a summit in Downing Street – attended by victims, survivors groups, police chiefs, council leaders, child protection experts, and health and social care providers.
Mr Cameron said he hoped the plans would enable different agencies to uncover child abuse – or face the consequences.
He also said he would demand that local areas work more effectively to strengthen children protection frameworks.
As part of the measures, child sexual exploitation is also to be prioritised as a “national threat” by police leaders – meaning police forces, chief constables and police and crime commissioners will have a duty to collaborate with each other across boundaries to protect children.
And the government is to consult on making it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect those at risk of, and victims of, child sexual abuse.
This would cover social workers, education practitioners and local councillors.
Britain has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse cases including in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.
An independent report found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013.
The report author Professor Alexis Jay said that girls as young as 11 were raped by “large numbers of male perpetrators”.
Remarking on the Rotherham scandal, Mr Cameron said: “Today I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable, and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.
“It is not just about introducing new policies. It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officers and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.
“We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”
The prime minister has commissioned Home Secretary Theresa May to lead a cross-governmental response following the revelations in Rotherham.
She will attend the child protection summit along with the secretaries of state for education, communities and local government.
The Department of Health has also published new guidance on the role of school nursing services in preventing child sexual exploitation.
And the Department for Education will announce a new £3.8 million allocation of its Innovation Programme. £1.2m will go to Sheffield and South Yorkshire Councils to develop services for young people experiencing or at risk of child sexual exploitation.
Wigan and Rochdale Councils will receive £956,000 to find alternatives to high cost and secure accommodation for victims of sexual exploitation, and to help those young people and their families.
St Christopher’s Fellowship will receive £1.19m to develop a home for at-risk girls, and Durham County Council will get £496k to open a new unit at their Aycliffe secure children’s home.
A serious case review into the Oxford abuse is due to be published on Tuesday, with police and social services expected to be severely criticised.
The Guardian has reported the review will say there were more than 300 victims, and lead investigator Det Ch Insp Simon Morton told BBC Newsnight police “completely let the girls down”.
“There is no hiding, there is no explanation for the victims. And the review has identified many areas that the authorities were weak in,” he said.
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