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Children sexually exploited in all parts of England and Wales as abusers find ‘new ways’ to groom them, inquiry finds

Children are being sexually exploited by networks in all parts of England and Wales in the “most degrading and destructive ways”, according to a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

The report found that perpetrators are finding “new ways” to groom younger children, including through social media and dating apps.

It also found examples of children, including babies, being livestreamed for money, and sometimes sexually abused at the direction of the paying perpetrator.

It comes as “extensive failures” by local authorities and police forces mean they are struggling to keep pace with the changing nature of sexual exploitation of children by networks, the report found.

‘Abducted at gun point’

The inquiry looked at six local authority areas: St Helens, Tower Hamlets, Swansea, Durham, Bristol and Warwickshire.

It heard evidence about more than 30 children and young people, and survivors who described their experiences between 2003 and 2011.

One survivor, who was first abused when she was 12, described being forced to perform a sex act on more than 20 adult men.

A number of men were charged, but the charges were later dropped and a few months later she told the inquiry she was abducted by another group of men at gunpoint.

She was placed back into care and returned to “a pattern of repeated self-harm”.

‘Victims treated as offenders’

It said there is a “flawed assumption” that child sexual exploitation was decreasing, when in reality it has become more of a “hidden problem” that is underreported unless linked to other forms of criminal behaviour such as county lines.

Read more:
Dramatic rise in online-linked sexual crimes against children

It said children had been described as “at risk” despite clear evidence harm had occurred and too many victims of exploitation are treated as offenders.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including strengthening the criminal justice system, updating government guidance on child sexual exploitation and better data collection by police forces and local authorities.

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It is the inquiry’s 18th report into child sex abuse; the final report, into residential schools, will be published next month.

The independent inquiry was launched when Theresa May was home secretary to look at how institutions and organisations, including councils, schools and religious groups, handle abuse claims.

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