Child sex trial: GMP protecting vulnerable children
Date published: 08 May 2012
Detective Inspector Julian Flindle from Greater Manchester Police's Protect Team, that specialises in investigating and preventing child sexual exploitation invited the media into one of the team's confidential briefings about vulnerable children.
He said: "We have been looking at a number of cases and referrals that have come through where it's believed that young people have been subjected to some level of sexual exploitation.
"In some cases where we have identified that children are at risk of sexual exploitation we have looked at those cases and looked at a variety of different issues, in terms of policing issues, in terms of if we have an investigation and progressing that, but also in terms of putting the victim at the centre of what we do and what support we can offer to the victim."
How are the cases identified?
"There's a whole variety of ways in which cases come. Some are self-referred by young people which can be via our Facebook account or via email or through school or different places.
"Some of them come from jobs that police officers have attended."
"We have our own Facebook account for the Protect Team so young people can actually communicate direct with us.
"We don't get a massive amount of complaints but we do get contacts and particularly contacts with young people who have been subject to Protect interventions in the past.
"But also it's an opportunity for us to put information and links into other sites that provide information and areas where you can actually report child sexual exploitation, such as the Fearless website which is run by Crimestoppers."
"I think in a lot of instances it can be a good first method of communication, an initial contact with a unit such as ours."
"Often it's requests for advice, it's requests for more information . It's also sometimes a request for somewhere they can come and speak to someone confidentially.
"In relation to that, we do operate a number of drop-in centres in the city centre and we are hoping to take that out wider within the communities of North and South Manchester."
What concerns are children raising?
"I think we get a whole host of different scenarios in terms of the young people who we deal with.
"Some people do appreciate that perhaps they are being targeted or are concerned about the activities of other individuals, or maybe they are concerned about their friends and relationships they are finding their friends engaging in."
"We do certainly get young people who don't actually identify themselves as victims and we will work with those young people to try and assist them in identifying that they potentially are a victim of exploitation."
"Lets not forget, our offenders are very very clever in the way they approach young people. They are not necessarily obvious in the fact that they are exploiting them. They begin friendships which certainly in the early stages appear quite innocent."
"It's often quite a slow process but it will move from initial contact, maybe meeting on a number of occasions and then they get to introducing things like recreational drugs, alcohol, supplying gifts. And it can move on from that to sexual activity and in extreme cases young people being passed around between different males. In fact the majority of our offenders are male but it's not unheard of to have female offenders as well."
"I think it would be fair to say that often our offenders target young people who are vulnerable and may have some need that our offenders try and fulfil. And I think it's about us working with young people so they can identify that they are being exploited and look at more positive diversionary activities that we can put in place to satisfy those needs."
"This is child abuse."
"We are very proactive. We are in the process now of going out to schools in Manchester to conduct a number of assemblies to raise the issues about what CSE looks like and what you can do about it and support is out there.
"We're also working with staff in educational premises to assist professionals in identifying some of the signs and symptoms of CSE so again they can be giving referrals so my team can get in a speak to these young people."
"We have seen a slight increase in the past 12 to 18 months but a lot of that is about the profile of CSE, not just nationally, but certainly locally. We are doing more and more work to get out and educate professionals and young people into identifying CSE and therefore report it."
"It's about getting that message out and working with all the other agencies and non-statutory bodies as well in terms of identifying victims."
Message to potential abusers?
"Our message is don't do it. It is a form of paedophilia. It is child abuse and we are extremely pro-active in bringing offenders to justice."
Message to young people?
"If you have got concerns, speak to someone you trust, whether that be someone in your family, someone in your school, a teacher, a friend. Speak to someone you can trust and please speak to the police."
Asked whether the police and social services had turned a blind eye to the issue of Asian gangs exploiting young white girls in the past.
"I would just like to say in terms of Protect we don't turn a blind eye to anything. We actually proactively go out there to identify child sexual exploitation. In my experience sexual exploitation does not relate to a certain group or ethnic origin. It is a vulnerability in terms of the victim that goes across all backgrounds and in terms of our offenders they come from all sorts of communities. This is about exploitation."
"Offenders are quite clever and will identify locations or methods of engaging young people, particularly vulnerable young people. And they will go to areas where young people will congregate so certainly areas such as city centres and town locations are always going to be areas of vulnerability. But we have policing operations that run every evening and into the weekend, not just with my staff but much wider policing agency staff, and those staff are briefed in terms of identifying child sexual exploitation, identifying those vulnerabilities and getting out there speaking to young people, seeing what's going on and also disrupting offenders. If there are offenders around there it doesn't do much for them if there's uniformed police officers walking around the area."
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