Hotels Didn't Spot Signs Of Exploitation

16 January 2018, 11:24

Thames Valley Police Car Bonnet

Officials say hoteliers in south Oxfordshire are still failing to spot the dangers of child sexual exploitation, following a recent test operation.

Last month, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils worked with Thames Valley Police to carry out a series of tests to check whether hotel staff recognise the signs of CSE and understand what action they need to take if they suspect there’s a problem.

The operation ran over two nights covering 12 hotels in southern Oxfordshire. The test involved a police officer in plain clothes attempting to book a double room while accompanied by a 14-year-old girl with no identification.

To pass the test, the hotels should have refused the booking and called the police. Six hotels accepted the booking, potentially allowing a serious crime to take place and putting a child at risk of being sexually exploited. While the other six refused the booking, they did not call the police.

The results of the CSE test are a slight improvement from a previous operation that took place in June when nine out of 12 hotels accepted the booking.

Following the June operation, ‘Hotel Watch’ – a scheme which sees police, councils and hotels sharing information, arranged for hotels and B&Bs to take part in awareness training delivered by the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board’s ‘Kingfisher’ team. Following the latest results more training sessions are planned in 2018 to help raise awareness of what staff need to be aware of.

In the most recent operation the hotels that accepted the booking were also tested to see if they would allow the girl to buy alcohol. Two premises failed to ask her for ID and subsequently served her an alcoholic drink. As a result, those two premises have since attended a meeting with the district councils’ licensing team and improvements have been implemented.

Cllr Elizabeth Gillespie, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at South Oxfordshire District Council said: “While there was some improvement from the previous operation it is extremely concerning to see that several hotels are still not challenging someone who could be putting a young person in serious danger.”

Cllr Eric Batts, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Vale of White Horse District Council said: “Child Sexual Exploitation is a serious crime and hotels and B&Bs must make sure that they don’t allow it to take place on their premises and that they follow the correct procedure if they suspect there’s a problem.”

Sgt Steve Bobbett from Thames Valley Police, said: “As the TVP lead during this operation I was disappointed at the level of failure, especially since we had run the operation earlier. There were some repeat failures which was particularly disappointing. On the positive side, a number of establishments had attended training and implemented safeguarding procedures.

“This is potentially exposing young and vulnerable victims to very serious abuse and we must do all we can to safeguard these potential victims. These hotels may be the last point for safety for these victims and the industries co-operation and awareness is key in helping us all to deal with this.”

“We will be running further operations during the course of the year and will be looking to highlight both good work as well as challenging repeat failures.”