Councils seek anti-grooming powers

Published: Thursday 26th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Town halls have called for new powers to help them intervene to prevent children being groomed for sex.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said court-backed orders were necessary because officials were “powerless” to act if they suspected grooming but did not have enough evidence to prosecute.

Sanctions already in place were “too limited”, the association said, with Sexual Risk Orders available only to police for suspects posing a risk of sexual harm.

The call, backed by children’s charity Barnardo’s, comes in the wake of multiple child sex abuse scandals in towns including Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford – for which police and councils have apologised over their failure to act.

Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “At present sanctions to prevent the grooming of vulnerable children are too limited and we need to make it easier to intervene earlier before harm is done.

“By making it possible for councils to apply swiftly to the courts for an order to disrupt grooming, we can help prevent the lives of children being ruined by sexual exploitation.”

The so-called child sexual exploitation disruption orders would seek to ban suspects from activities such as being near schools at certain times and would be similar to anti-social behaviour or domestic violence protection orders.

Victims would not need to give evidence in magistrates court and breaching an order would be a criminal offence.

Their introduction should be a first-term priority for the next government, added the LGA, which represents 370 local authorities in England and Wales.

Mr Simmonds said: ” Few parents would be comfortable if their children were spending their time in the company of older men and coming home with expensive gifts and smelling of alcohol. But the reality is that there have been concerned mums and dads who have had to stand by, powerless, as their children have been groomed by vile sexual predators.

“We need a commitment from the next government that they will act swiftly to legislate for these orders, so no more communities will suffer the scars of child sexual exploitation. The introduction of Sexual Risk Orders is an important step in giving the police more powers but we need to extend this to the wider community if we are to tackle CSE effectively.

“We are not trying to pass a sentence before someone has been charged, nor do we intend to stop people from carrying out their normal daily activities. But we need to know children are safe from the menace of CSE and disrupting the activities of those we suspect of grooming young people can only help this.”

Published: Thursday 26th March 2015 by The News Editor

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