30th Nov, 2020

Former Home Secretary to lead inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK

Tristan Harris 1st Jun, 2020 Updated: 1st Jun, 2020

MORE than one in six children are sexually abused in the UK – those are the shocking findings set to be revealed as part of an investigation being led by former Home Secretary and Bromsgrove MP Sajid Javid.

Working in partnership with the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Mr Javid will expose not only the extent of child sex abuse (CSA) and exploitation in the country but the general characteristics of offenders and victims.

It will also map out recommendations for decisive action to turn the tide.

The epidemic was apparent before the Covid-19 pandemic but it is feared the lockdown has created the nightmare scenario of victims being trapped in quarantine with their abusers – some even members of their own family.

In an article for the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Javid foresaw a ‘surge’ in CSA that would only become apparent later in the year.

He also made clear he would not let accusations of racism deter the inquiry from probing outrages such as the Rochdale and Rotherham grooming scandals in which gangs of men – of predominantly Asian background – targeted vulnerable young white girls.

The former Home Secretary said: “The seriousness of this crime demands that difficult questions are asked.

“It is a source of great sadness and anger for me that in recent high-profile cases of group-based CSE, the men convicted have been disproportionately of Pakistani heritage.

“In weighing the significance of this, our investigation will not allow cultural or political sensitivities get in the way of understanding the problem, nor will it limit our understanding of who the perpetrators are and how this crime often goes undetected.

“We will follow the evidence, regardless of how uncomfortable the outcome.”

Mr Javid revealed when he took over the Home Office in 2018, he was shocked to discover the ‘full horror’ of CSA, with the National Crime Agency now estimating there were at least 300,000 people in the UK who pose a sexual threat to children.

Referrals of child abuse images from industry alone are up 1,000 per cent since 2013 and evidence suggested one in six children are sexually abused.

Mr Javid added the threat to children continued to escalate and evolve at pace which prompted him to join forces with the CSJ to launch an extensive, no holds barred investigation into child sexual abuse and exploitation in the UK.

In concert with the think tank set up by former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Cabinet minister promised to ‘endeavour to improve our understanding of who perpetrators typically are, and how they came to be paedophiles’, ‘examine the changing patterns of offending, and establish which children are most vulnerable’ and ‘make concrete policy recommendations, and seek to arm the Government with ideas capable of turning the tide’.

In the year ending March 2019, the police in England and Wales recorded 73,260 sexual offences where there are data to identify the victim was a child.

In the new inquiry, the CSJ will review existing data and undertake new research (such as identifying how many ongoing investigations there are), assessing the current rate of offending; investigating the characteristics of these offenders and assessing the number of likely victims to date.

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the CSJ, said: “We welcome Mr Javid’s support at a time when over one in six British children are facing the sickening threat of sexual abuse.

“It is highly courageous of him to speak out on the issue, which has been difficult to confront and too often neglected.

“As the CSJ investigation into child sex abuse and exploitation starts, we hope to contribute immensely to public knowledge on this sickening practice, as well as formulating steps to end the abuse epidemic.”

The inquiry will examine CSA and child sexual exploitation (CSE), a subset of CSA, popularly known as ‘grooming’ vulnerable children for sexual purposes.

Key questions to be answered by the CSA part of the investigation are whether ubiquitous access to the Internet changed the way in which sexual crimes against children are being perpetrated and how successfully those with a sexual interest in children are prevented from committing crimes and punished if they do?

It will also look at children vulnerable to CSA who would benefit from targeted interventions, what more can be done to prevent CSA and how successfully protected an served adults who have survived sexual abuse in childhood are.

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