National Inquiry Into Child Exploitation
13 June 2012, 05:00 | Updated: 13 June 2012, 14:21
Nicola Blackwood, the MP for Oxford West and Abingdon has launched a national inquiry into child exploitation.
In light of alleged crimes being committed against children in the Thames Valley, and other "sickening crimes against vulnerable children" such as those revealed recently in Rochdale, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood says she's pressing as hard as possible, both in Westminster and at a local level, for the spotlight to be firmly directed onto this problem.
"It is essential that the Government and other agencies work together to ensure that lessons are learned and such tragic situations are prevented from reoccurring. As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, I requested an inquiry into grooming and I am very pleased that it formally launched today. The inquiry will take evidence on the sexual exploitation of children through 'localised grooming' and how it can be more effectively prevented."
The evidence session will draw on lessons learnt from the Rochdale case and the findings of national investigations by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the Children's Commissioner.
Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, Sara Thornton told Heart "Ending the exploitation of children is a key priority for Thames Valley Police. However, such is the scale of the challenge we have asked the Police Authority to provide £500,000 over an 18-month period. This will be spent gathering and then investigating intelligence to get a better picture of the situation in the Force area."
The Chief Constable added: "One of the difficulties with investigating this type of crime is that young people who are victims often don't even realise they are victims. It requires very sensitive and careful handling to try to gain the confidence of young people who have been treated badly."
The cash to stamp out child abuse is a 'bold and important step', South East MEP Catherine Bearder said today. Catherine has welcomed news Thames Valley Police is set to spend £500,000 on targeting paedophile gangs.
It comes after 16 people were earlier this year arrested over an alleged child abuse network in Oxford involving dozens of girls. Catherine said: "This is a strong statement of intent from Thames Valley Police, despite the mounting financial pressures the force has faced. I have been saying consistently this is not an issue which only affects 'other communities', it is happening in all of our towns and cities.
"We have seen vile reports from across the country and it always shocks people how this terrible abuse happened right under their noses. The police fund will be available up to 2014, and could include bringing in outside firms to work on analysis of computers. It is thought to be the first time cash has been specifically aimed at stopping child exploitation."
Catherine added: "Child abuse is happening because criminals are exploiting demand they must be stopped. Today is a bold and important step, but it is only the start of making sure abusers are caught."