Identifying “risk from child sexual exploitation” is only the first task of the police, health and justice systems…

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“As part of this review, we have identified a group of 22 young people who may be at risk from child sexual exploitation and are seeking to identify those who may have committed crimes against them.”

Identifying victims is not the same as prosecution, and it certainly does not mean that for the victims themselves their ordeal is over. This File On 4 programme broadcast earlier this year gave a harrowing account of some of those experiences from the Rochdale case.

…one of the police officers involved in the case claims that flaws in the way it was handled meant important witness evidence was dropped and some abusers were never prosecuted – leaving a new generation of girls potentially at risk and victims seriously let down.

Jane Deith also hears complaints that witnesses were left without adequate support to help them re-build their lives.

It is well worth listening to at this point, not least because such headlines can give the impression that the problem is all but over. For some, it may only be the beginning of a more challenging stage.

It is also proof, if such were required that for Northern Ireland, and most other places child sex abuse is an ongoing problem and not just an historic one. The seriousness with which those historic cases are handled, no doubt will have an effect on current victims.

But there needs to be a seriousness about the way contemporary cases are handled too. The much tougher cultural problem is often the way the abusers are so deeply hard wired into communities who are already distrustful of the state’s agencies.

And that can only multiply the already profound vulnerability of the victims concerned.

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  • keano10

    The File on 4 programme was truly harrowing and I found it heartbreaking also. It is no great surprise that many children here may also be at risk, but it is greatly reassuring that the authorities appear to be pro-active in investigating current abuses as well as the endless litany of historical abuses.

    There is no greater than the abuse of an innocent child. As a society, we have taken a long time to properly protect our most precious and vulnerable citizens. Judicial leniency, apathy and lack of insight have all contributed to an a disgraceful lack of protection for our children

    Lets hope that progress can be rapidly accelerated to offer some sort of hope to all of the innocent kids who are still at risk.

  • son of sam

    As I understand this is an ongoing police investigation and one wonders whether the public disclosure of its existence will not compromise the ability to apprehend and eventually convict those responsible.On Friday evening, there seemed to be a race between U T V and B B C to break the story.As well we have the unedifying spectacle of politicians muscling in on the story and calling a special joint meeting of the Justice and Health committees at Stormont .How this is going to help the P S N I investigation is not immediately apparent as no doubt we will hear the usual well rehearsed platitudes

  • mr x

    Lisa Nandy who is the Shadow Children’s Minister at Westminster has called for the National Crime Agency to be involved in this type of investigation.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good call from Lisa. But we can’t even agree on that here.

  • cynic2

    I agree MIck …..and isn’t it shameful that there isn’t an iota of voter pressure on SF to sort this when the party if part of a ‘movement’ that has such a bad history of covering up such abuse.

    Do SF voters really think that raping children and abusing them isn’t a priority for our society?

    In a week when an Irishman is alleged to be an international hub for pedophilia distribution do they really think this is so far from home or do we all simply not care? And if that is the case, what does it say boyut us as a priority

  • cynic2

    That was posted before it was ready!!! See below

    I agree MIck …..and isn’t it shameful that there isn’t an iota of voter pressure on SF to sort this when the party is part of a ‘movement’ that has such a bad history of covering up such abuse.

    Do SF voters really think that raping children and abusing them isn’t a priority for our society? Do Unionists not care enough to press the issue at Stormont or might that just rock the boat too much?

    In a week when an Irishman is alleged to be an international hub for pedophilia distribution do they really think this is so far from home or do we all simply not care? And if that is the case, what does it say about us as a society

  • tacapall

    “Do SF voters really think that raping children and abusing them isn’t a priority for our society? Do Unionists not care enough to press the issue at Stormont or might that just rock the boat too much”

    Your going to have such a shock Cynic when its revealed who is involved in the raping of children to pay off drug debts. This is not a new story, this has been an ongoing investigation for a number of years maybe you should take a look around your own community for the culprits. Im sure you will find that the raping of children is not only confined within the Catholic community, obviously you have those blinkers on again that allows you to block from your mind Kincora, The BBC and Jimmy Saville and a host of other well known personalities who were it seems allowed to act like cavemen I could post up links that would show you hundreds of Tory, Labour and liberal democrats who have been charged with a multitude of offenses connected to child abuse and rape.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can we lay off the speculation please. Though I would caution anyone away from assuming this is a ‘single identity’ problem. It most certainly is not. Nor is isolation/alienation from the rule of law.

  • cynic2


    Interesting viewpoint. SF block the UK National Agency leading on investigating Child Porn and Exploitation from working in NI for ideological reasons. They do nothing to replace it or make up for the gap – nothing. That’s a fact. So is their chequered history in covering up rape and abuse in the ranks of their Movement and among some of their own members and representatives.

    Despite what you say that’s not a sectarian stance even though it attacks SF. You have a blinkered view that anything that attacks SF for what they DO must be sectarian. Its not. Its just like attacking the Liberal Democarats for covering up Cyril Smyths abuse. That’s normal politics.

    You will not that I also attacked the Unionists for not putting this issue on their agenda above flegs, grants for Loyalist Groups and where men in bowler hats can wear out their show leather. And have a look at some of my other posts about the DUP and UUP before you accuse me of sectarianism.

    I also don’t suggest that child abuse is a problem for one community and not another. There have been examples in the UVF for example of selling drugs, rape and murder of young girls. You can also drag it all the way back to Kincora if you want

    But why are SF actively stopping the lead UK Agency working on this working in Northern Ireland?

    And my point also stands. Why for the community as a whole as voters is none of this relevant to us when it comes to put that we x on the ballot for the man (and its usually a man) wrapped in a fleg?

  • son of sam

    According to the Nolan show this morning,the P S N I were planning to give a media briefing on the whole matter today.It appears that some journalists couldn’t wait and felt the need to break the story.Like so much else in N Ireland,there seems to be a lot of grandstanding going on .Whether all this pontificating by the media and politicians will assist the police investigation is open to question!

  • Mick Fealty


    Quite. More serious focus on the matter itself would be good. I heard it break first thing Saturday morning on Radio 4 and then when I got home I looked for the meat, and meat there was none.

  • son of sam

    In your experience of the cutthroat nature of local journalism,is it routine for an embargo on a story to be broken just to get an edge on a competitor ?The media briefing took place this morning so what was to be gained by breaking the story a few days earlier?

  • Mick Fealty

    Unusual, but not unknown. I await to hear the real story.

  • son of sam

    Looking at U T V Live tonight,one could be forgiven for thinking that their reporter had done all the hard work in uncovering the story. In fact, it is apparent that the spade work in all this has been carried out by the PS N I and other agencies.The righteous tones emenating from politicians and others smacks of opportunism.It goes without saying that the police should be allowed to carry out their investigations through to convictions in the courts and receive the proper credit at the end of it.

  • cynic2

    Yes…the psni comments are very muted and balanced. The media ad politicians see a bandwagon.

    Young women have been put in taxis and sent to parties? Wow ….like that never happened 30 years ago. It all depends i suspect on their ages and those of the men involved.

  • son of sam

    It was good to see Jim Gamble stand up to Paul Clarke at his most unctuous on U T V tonight.An outsider might almost infer that the P S N I were in the dock and some of the camera angles in the interview with A C C Hamilton seemed designed to reinforce that impression.Gamble reiterated my previous point that the premature disclosure of the investigation may have assisted some of the offenders and he also noted that Paul seemed a little defensive on this issue.

  • Mick Fealty

    ACC Mark Hamilton from last night:

    Jim Gamble et al:

    I’ve some considerable sympathy with Jim’s view, but I also think some outward pressure to recognise the extent of the job that has to be done is not a bad thing.

    His point that whoever gave the story out pre-arrest was putting those arrests at risk risk and giving perpetrators warning is a fair one.

    But it also true seems true that historically all police forces have not been taking this type of criminal behaviour seriously, for a long long time.

    After the Barnardos report a couple of years ago, child protection is still not in the police plan (erm, Policing Board members, got anything to say about that?).

    Not recognising the issue, the context in which it happens is one of the underlying cultural problems here.

    The paradox is that we need a more open discussion about an issue which by its nature has to be investigated with the utmost confidentiality. That’s at the core of the awkward argy bargy between Gamble and Clarke at the end.

    The truth is that this issue has been known about (ie, it is likely that children have been presenting with these stories) for a very long time, and for whatever reason (inertia is certainly one of them) it has been consistently ignored.

  • Mick Fealty

    And NOT just by the cops, it has to be said…

  • cynic2

    Just heard Ford on The Today Programme. Utterly awful. no sense of drive or control or delivery. All bureaucrcy and process and defence of the responsibility of social workers not the police in this.

    A perfect illustration of why the big boys let him do the job

  • son of sam

    Was David Ford not a social worker in a previous life?

  • Mick Fealty

    Before we go down the personal route, I only heard the beginning, but it was clear that there has been failings all over the shop…

    Minister Ford is not the only one responsible in this area. The Ministers for Health and Social Development have some responsibilities too.

    And as far as control and the police is concerned, the Policing Board are notable by their complete absence from flagging this issue as a policy if not an operational priority. [What are these guys actually doing for their money???]

    For me, that’s a broad failing. But the obsession with the populism of street protests and talking about a past neither party in OFMdFM has the least intention of doing anything about other than talking up the other’s obvious points of distress (see Brian’s excellent note on this:, means no one wants to do anything that is not popular.

    Playing with a straight bat on an issue that just causes widespread distress amongst voters is not popular at Stormont. But if they don’t, then there is no way these children are going to get the help they deserve.

  • DC

    Mick what was wrong with my last comment?

    You might think you know more than readers on here due to your contacts as a journalist; however, can you not admit that there are absolutely no specifics to this case and everyone is talking in generalities here and therefore we can’t really criticise – yet!

    So I will repeat some of my last comment:

    “Everyone at the moment is going on nothing – including me!

    The investigation is so vague that i am not sure it has given away anything of significance.”

    I don’t think it’s fair for you to start ramping up claims of possible incompetence of departments and authorities whenever specifics are absence.

    If you know more then bite your lip 🙂 but wait till the rest of us have the info you are working off in order for us to form more accurate opinions ourselves.

  • Mick Fealty

    Nothing wrong with any of that. That’s not why you got pinged! [as I suspect you know].

  • “His point that whoever gave the story out pre-arrest was putting those arrests at risk risk and giving perpetrators warning is a fair one.”

    I thought his key point about premature reporting was that ‘whoever shared this story at this early stage needs to reflect on the potential harm they’ve caused the children who will be intimidated and bullied by these offenders to try and prevent them from giving evidence ..’.

    In short, the risk to these abused children has been increased and the likelihood of co-operation with the various authorities IMO has now been diminished.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for extracting the quote from the video Nev. Two key words: ‘potential’ and ‘Trust’.

    When we are all finished blaming the press, the breaking of this story appears to have come in anticipation of a joint meeting of the assembly’s health and justice committees on Monday.

    So what was the PSNI planning to brief the assembly on such a sensitive issue ahead of any arrests?

  • son of sam

    Paul Clarke last night was was very quick to dismiss the notion that their reporter had done anything wrong in breaking the story.However they seem to be dining out on the story with some relish.Was the joint meeting of the Justice and Health committees already arranged?I had the impression that it was in reaction to the story but no doubt your sources are better informed.

  • cynic2

    “Before we go down the personal route, ”

    Sorry Mick but when, in my opinion, a Ministers performance in an interview is so weak, is it just a personal attack to say so? I think its a real and fair assessment of performance!

    Remember his TV appearance on flegs complaining that the PM wouldn’t take his calls and the SOS reminded him basically that he was Justice Minister. Weak weak weak

  • “It’s too important an issue – sexual exploitation of young people in care and elsewhere in Northern Ireland – for us not to having that level of discussions, so obviously we briefed the committees last week and I’m giving serious consideration as to what next steps need to be taken in view of everything that has been revealed over course of the last few days.” … Minister Poots, UTV, 18.09.2013

  • The two ministers together with the two junior ministers met with the chairs and vice-chairs of the two committees last Tuesday, September 10, presumably in private, to discuss the sexual exploitation of young people. … Source pt 1 of the September 16 joint session

  • DC


    Going by ACC Hamilton the PSNI had intervened but had trouble getting evidence off the abused and he didn’t directly suggest that that was because of the abused being bullied by the abuser to keep schtum as a result of media attention, as the contact seems to have been made before this, so there might be more to it – teens and authority generally rarely go hand in hand.

    I imagine these teens lead chaotic lives and then along comes a middle-aged middleclass psni officer in uniform trying to help…same with the social worker, probably well educated and all ethical, more than likely polar opposites in terms of backgrounds, value systems and behaviours / mannerisms to the teens in care and being questioned.

    They then want to sit down with the teens and say right let’s talk about sex, drink and drugs, the three things that outside of abuse no teenager generally wants to talk about in front of older people, never mind with older strangers going by the name of “authorities” enquiring into “abuse”.

    I dont think you need to call in specialists you need to call in former victims, women who had been in similar situations – in care as girls – and on drink and drugs etc. Ask them how to deal with teens missing while in care and incommunicado, that might be a better place to start?

  • cynic2

    The PSNI are guarded on this one and from what has been said I am not so sure how to read this. A lot of it looks a lot like the normal sex and personal lives of 14 to 17 years olds in parts of Belfast these days (and in many other cities). We can wish it weren’t so but that is the reality for many of them. Some may say they shouldn’t be having sex at that years. I agree but they have been for generations with their male peers

    I think the key issue is who are the men, what ages are they and what is their relationship / view on the girls? If a 15 year old girl and a 16 year old boy are doing all this then I am concerned about both their health but the exploitation issue is non-existent. If the male is say 21 or older then its starting to get worrying and look pervy,a s my daughter might put it

  • cynic2, I think there is likely to be some significance in the briefing of the chairs and vice-chairs of the two committees.

  • cynic2


    Perhaps. But there is a whiff of moral panic here which our politicians are liable to run away with.

    “Young weemin are having sex ….shackin. Get the Bible Mary, we’re gonna need help on this one”

    The question for me is, is it exploitative of them or is it not?

  • Is it a coincidence that there was a child sexual protection conference on Monday September 9 [pdf] and the two ministers briefed the MLA chairs and vice-chairs the following day? Jim Gamble was one of the speakers.

  • cynic2

    Heaven knows.

    And why is Pootsy seeking an expert”from outside NI” when he has the just retired Head of the Lead National Agency in NI? I can only assume he wants a social worker to cover his back and not a hard nosed copper who might turn over too many stones in Health and Social Services.

    It was noticeable that his plea for whistelblowers ro come forward offered no cast iron guarantee that if the do they will ever be able to work again in the Health or Social Services organisations in NI. Their history in supporting those who tell the truth isnt good.

  • son of sam

    On B B C (N I) website Maeve Mc Laughlin M L A is described as Chair of the Health Committee as she comments on issues arising from the Care homes story.Maybe I’ve missed something but I thought Sue Ramsey M L A held that position.

  • Sue stepped down from that position a few days ago and Maeve has taken that post. Sue was absent from last week’s meeting and was expected to be absent from the assembly for a few weeks.

  • cynic2

    What an interetsing day.

    The bright light was Michelle McIlveens almost tearful open and honest history of what she attempted to do by way of a private members bill only to be thwarted by Health Officials telling her ‘there is no problem here’.

    Then we have Department oif Health & Hand-wringing Briefings that they had to choose to spend the money on either A&Es or young people. Really? What about all the money wasted on stopping gay blood donation or adoption, or bunions, or complimentary treatments or layer upon layer of civil servants in the Department pushing forms? Were they all more important than child rape?

    Now we have the DUPs pleas not to go headhunting for those responsible – which sort of suggests Pootsy’s vulnerability. This is all purely in the interests of the children however

    Tonight we have Catatonia Ruin on UTV going into the Policing Board concerned and coming out even more concerned. What happened? Did she and her SF colleagues suddenly wake up?

    Now we have calls for a review or an inquiry or both or neither.

    I am sad to say that it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is the issues will be kicked into the long grass. Vulnerable 15 year old don’t vote and many of those who vote DUP may regard them just as brazen hussys. We have an utterly dysfunctional government

  • son of sam

    Its the gift that keeps on giving on a nightly basis with Paul Clarke as Inquisitor General and reporter Sharon O’Neill promoted to the panel this evening.Surprisingly with two politicians on the panel,there was no mention of the leaked report referred to by Marie Louise Connolly on B B C Newsline.This seemed to suggest that an opportunity to legislate for such a situation as this was not taken by Stormont some years ago for financial reasons.Could this possibly be true?Suppose its always easier to give the police and other organisations a kicking!