A NATIONAL inquiry into institutionalised child sexual abuse will now investigate grooming gangs — a move welcomed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, who has been announced as a “core participant” in the research.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up in 2014 to examine how the country’s institutions handled their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
The £17 million six-year inquiry — headed up by Prof Alexis Jay, who revealed 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham — was set up in the wake of high profile instances of non-recent child sexual abuse and because the government had grave concerns that some organisations had failed and were continuing to fail to protect children from sexual abuse.
The inquiry’s remit did not originally include taking into account the Rotherham abuse scandal in its 13 strands of investigations.
But it has now been announced that it will carry out research into child sexual exploitation by organised networks (CSEN).
Ms Champion welcomed the much-needed research and said the Home Office had failed to take it on despite her lobbying.
She said: “Alexis Jay is the third head of this inquiry and has been doing a great job.
“Because of her knowledge and understanding of Rotherham, she’s been keen to look at grooming gangs involvement in child abuse.”
Ms Champion said she had been pushing since 2015 for the Home Office to carry out this research after she, Rotherham survivor Sammy Woodhouse and whistleblower Jayne Senior met then-Prime Minister David Cameron.
“I’ve been pushing the Home Office and Home Secretary for this type of investigation and all they have given me is warm words and no action,” said Ms Champion.
“All this was uncovered by Alexis Jay and now she is continuing that work.”
Explaining its new strand of investigation, the IICSA said: “The systematic grooming and sexual abuse of children by groups of offenders in cities and towns of England and Wales is widespread.
“Building upon the body of work on child sexual exploitation following specific instances in places such as Devon and Cornwall, Oxford, Rochdale, Rotherham, and Telford, this investigation will assess the extent to which a wide range of relevant authorities have learned lessons, implemented recommendations, and put in place effective strategies to prevent child sexual exploitation in future.
“We will consider whether the police and other agencies are using civil prevention orders effectively, whether the current regulation of the night-time economy and taxi licensing is effective in protecting children from abuse, and whether the criminal justice system is treating victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation appropriately.”
The IICSA said it will hear evidence at its public hearings, scheduled for 2020, on “CSE problem profiling (including gender/ethnicity) and disruption of offenders”.
It will also look into whether police have comprehensive and up-to-date information about local patterns of CSEN in their area and how they use information.
As a core participant, Ms Champion will have special rights in her voluntary role and be able to suggest lines of questioning to be pursued.
The Rotherham MP said she was keen for research to look into grooming gangs’ motivations.
She said: “Is it for sexual gratification, money, an ego and power thing — I don’t know.
“I’m also interested to know whether the various gangs we are seeing across the country are operating in complete isolation or broader network.”
Ms Champion said she also hoped the inquiry hearings would look into race and culture and examine why “British Pakistani men” or “gangs of teenage schoolboys” were operating like this.
She said she believed the IICSA was now on track with Prof Jay at the helm, after two previous heads quit the role, adding: “I think she’s got the trust and confidence of victims and survivors and I think that’s the main key and why the first two were not acceptable.”
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