Real voices: child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester

Ann Coffey MP’s independent report: summary of findings and recommendations

Tony Lloyd, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, asked Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, to undertake an inquiry into what has been done to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Greater Manchester since the Rochdale case in 2012. She has investigated changes in culture and attitudes amongst the police and other agencies, and advised on what more needs to be done to protect children.

The inquiry prioritised listening to children and young people, victims, practitioners and professionals. Their views have influenced the author’s recommendations in the 'Real voices' report, and their ‘unaltered, authentic voices’ are presented in chapter 1 (pp 9-34). She also visited CSE and safeguarding teams and local voluntary projects.


Findings from the report

They spoke about:

  • pressures of sexualisation in the digital age
  • how CSE has become a ‘social norm’ in some communities
  • being approached on the street by older men
  • fear of reporting harassment to ‘suits’ and ‘uniforms’ because they ‘look down on them’
  • support they get from speaking to other young people ‘in the same boat’
  • value of peer mentors.

Between June 2013 and May 2014, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) figures on recorded sexual offences against under-18s show that only 111 out of 1,691 cases were ‘flagged’ on their system as CSE. The author was concerned that this is because frontline police are not recognising CSE. 

In the past 6 years there have only been 1,078 convictions out of 12,879 reported cases of sexual offences against under-16s.

The author was extremely concerned by the attitudes of prosecutors and juries. Young people were written off because they were not ‘ideal victims’.

These judgements were based on their clothes, behaviour and family backgrounds. In court, defence barristers bullied victims and attacked their characters. 

GMP figures reveal that 3,242 children and young people went missing between January and September 2014. This generated 9,789 reports.

Of these, 530 children were looked after, generating 4,520 reports – almost half of incidents.

There were also 4,923 episodes recorded as ‘absent’ - these cases do not merit an immediate police response.

The author is very concerned that independent private children’s homes are not abiding by government requirements to notify the local authority when a child moves in from another local authority area.

Because Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) is not compulsory in schools, the information schools give to children about CSE varies greatly.

Some schools don’t tackle the issue at all for fear of reputational damage if it appears that they have a problem with it.

In 2012/13, there were 4,955 primary school children and 9,135 secondary school children persistently absent from schools in Greater Manchester.

The public is largely unaware that CSE can take many different forms, including the exploitation of boys, and many people do not understand the difference between CSE and child sexual abuse.

Public perception is that CSE only concerns vulnerable white girls and gangs of Asian men.

The Rochdale Sunrise CSE team told the author that about 15% of their cases involve groups. The other 85% of cases concern single offenders including cases of peer-on-peer abuse.

Online social media has redefined community, with geographical communities becoming less significant. According to the author, the digital community has provided ‘an arc across local authority boundaries in Greater Manchester.’

For this reason, CSE cannot be dealt with by authorities and agencies operating in their own silos.

Central recommendation from the report

(based on an idea from a 13-year-old girl)

A multimedia digital network led by young people. It will include a weekly radio show produced and hosted by young people on CSE-related issues.

This will be in partnership with the youth radio station Unity Radio. This project will be supported by a consortium of charities (including NSPCC) named the Greater Manchester Consortium Against Child Sexual Exploitation (GMCASE).

Other recommendations

  • Training needed for frontline officers on identifying CSE. Currently only 21% of GMP receive training, this should be lifted to 100%.
  • Find ways of engaging with different communities on the issue of CSE.
  • Remove all references to child prostitution in legislation.
  • Analyse ‘no further action’ cases authorised by the CPS to pick out areas for learning.
  • CPS representatives to join multi-agency CSE teams.
  • Court transcripts should be freely available on the internet in the interests of transparency and to educate the public about CSE.
  • CPS review of defence barristers’ questioning and tone during cross-examination of CSE victims.
  • Research into low number of convictions and trends in jury decisions in cases of sexual offences against children and young people.
  • Investigate whether the new police recording system for ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ people is better at protecting children.
  • Spot checks to see if children’s homes are adhering to government guidance on informing the local authority of out-of-area placements.
  • A campaign to make PSHE compulsory.
  • Spending pupil premium money on peer mentoring schemes for those at risk of CSE.
  • Formal talks from police officers to children on the dangers of CSE.
  • Ofsted to inspect provision for children excluded from education and those who attend school part-time.
  • LSCBs and schools should take the lead on educating the public about CSE and how they can help protect children.
  • Schemes such as Neighbourhood Watch can be used to inform the public about CSE.
  • Inform those who are the ‘eyes and ears’ of communities including bus drivers, taxi drivers, hoteliers, park attendants, shop keepers and school crossing patrol staff.
  • Serious case reviews (SCRs) should look at the history of the abuser to gain a better understanding of environmental factors which have contributed to the offending behaviour.
  • Make sure information about how sexual offenders behave is included in CSE training for professionals.
  • Appointing a ‘CSE Champion’ to develop new ways of working across police, health and local authority boundaries. They should work in partnership with the voluntary sector, young people, parents / carers, and communities.
  • Large charities should mentor smaller community groups to enable them to prevent CSE in their local areas.

Find out more about child sexual exploitation

Signs, symptoms and effects

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child sexual exploitation.

Identifying the signs of CSE

Child sexual exploitation: learning from case reviews

Lessons from case reviews published since 2010, where children were the victims of sexual exploitation.
Find out more

Preventing child sexual exploitation

How we can protect children and young people from sexual exploitation.

Find out more

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References

  1. Coffey, A. and Lloyd, T. (.) (2014) Real voices: child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester (PDF). [Manchester]: Greater Manchester Police Force.