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Inquiry continues into the sexual exploitation of children

The Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee is deepening its investigation into the effectiveness of current practices and guidelines aimed at tackling and preventing the sexual exploitation of children.

The inquiry was initially launched in March, following a petition submitted by children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland.

What is child sexual exploitation?

Barnardo’s defines child sexual exploitation as:

“Any involvement of a child or young person below 18 in sexual activity for which a remuneration of cash or ‘in kind’, is given to the child or young person, or a third party or person. The perpetrator will have power over the young person by virtue of one or more of the following – age, emotional maturity, gender, physical strength and intellect.”

Child sexual exploitation is prevalent in society. The latest statistics from the NSPCC, looking at England and Wales, reveal that around 25% of young adults experienced some form of sexual abuse while they were growing up. In 2011/12, police recorded 17,186 sexual crimes against children under 16 in England and Wales.

Risk factors

While any child of either gender can be at risk of becoming a victim of child sexual exploitation, Barnardo’s highlights the following factors as likely to increase vulnerability:

  • Disrupted family life, possibly including domestic violence
  • Being a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Parental drug or alcohol misuse
  • Going missing regularly
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol
  • Having poor mental health/wellbeing
  • Not being in school or stable accommodation

Cut them free: Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland

The charity submitted its petition, ‘Cut them free: Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in Scotland’, to the Scottish Government, in the hope of persuading it to commission new research into the issue. 

Barnardo’s Scotland also wanted the Government to assess whether the action points set out in the 2003 guidance on Vulnerable Children and Young People Sexual Exploitation Through Prostitution had been achieved, and to review and develop dedicated Scottish Government guidelines on child sexual exploitation, updating the existing guidelines.

Action by the Committee

The Public Petitions Committee took up the petition, focusing initially on the effectiveness of the existing practices and guidelines. 

It now wants to try to understand the difficulties involved in the identification, disruption and prosecution of the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation.

“There are thousands of people across Scotland who work tirelessly to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and help support its victims,” said Committee convenor, David Stewart MSP. “We want to hear from people on the front line about the barriers they face on a daily basis and about what more needs to be done.”

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Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.