Child sexual exploitation by organised networks Investigation Report
The Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse commissioned a national report into child sexual exploitation, it picked six local authorities to investigate in order to help develop national recommendations and then looked at the detail of what had happened to some children in recent years.
So while not aimed directly at Tower Hamlets it provides important information about the safety of our children in recent years, it has lessons for the Met Police and Tower Hamlets Council, both of whom are responsible (with the NHS) for child safety. It does talk about improvements and there have been big changes in leadership in the last year or two.
BUT as is common when I read reports like this I realise that the problems were even greater than I thought they were and the hill to climb to better protect children is steeper than I thought. And as a Councillor, I am too dependent on external reports like this to understand what is happening inside the Council when my job is to scrutinise what is happening inside.
The newspapers have strong quotes from those involved in the report, see 2nd picture
The original report is here
I have attempted to summarise some of the issues on Twitter here and as pics below
But at the heart of this report are the stories of four local children, whom we know as CS-A22, CSA77, CS-A81, and CS-A90
These are their stories, it helps explain how difficult these cases are but why it is so important to get them right
Child CS-A22 female
CS-A22 was reported to have a difficult background, with a history of violence in the family. She had multiple episodes of going missing and was taken into care in 2017 at the age of 13. The evidence demonstrates that she was the victim of sexual assaults from 2018 to 2019.
Among the case study children, CS-A22 was found in 2017 with injuries suggestive of serious sexual assault after a two-day episode of going missing. The local authority raised concerns with the police that she had been raped.
CS-A22 was placed out of the Tower Hamlets area for a year and was then brought back to the borough. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets accepted that not enough was done to prepare CS-A22 or her parent for her return and that the school which she was due to attend was not made aware of her vulnerability. It was reported that CS-A22 was sexually exploited upon her return home and she subsequently disclosed further sexual assaults. She was later placed out of area in another specialist placement.
In Tower Hamlets, CS-A22 had been assessed as at high risk of child sexual exploitation at the age of 13. There were concerns that she had been sexually abused and raped and she was taken into police protection. However, she was described as “a frequent missing person [who] appears to willingly expose herself to danger” and “placing herself at risk”. Similar language was also evidenced in documents relating to CS‑A77, who was described as showing “risk-taking behaviour”. There was an example of an inappropriate use of the word ‘boyfriend’ with reference to adult perpetrators.The Children’s Society reported that, through their Return Home Interview Service monitoring reports in 2017, there were examples of victim-blaming language by both social workers and police officers. One example seriously undermined the severity of sexual abuse the child had experienced.
There were several examples of children being sexually abused and traumatised while living in residential homes before eventually being moved to specialist residential services which had an understanding of trauma and were able to provide therapeutic support. These include CS‑A22 in Tower Hamlets
In Tower Hamlets, in the case of CS‑A22, the child made disclosures of assault and rape but these allegations did not lead to prosecution. Although a number of named potential perpetrators were added to a crime report and suspects database, the report was closed. Some information was passed to the local force but there is no evidence of any arrests.
There was some evidence of victim-blaming in relation to CS-A22 and CS-A77.
Child CS-A77 Female
Some were taken into care for reasons unconnected with child sexual exploitation and then became victims of sexual exploitation. CS-A77 was taken into care in 2015, when aged 14 or 15. When she was 17, covert policing tactics were used to identify people who were suspected to be exploiting her, as a result of which multiple people were arrested and issued with Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs). In late 2018, an assessment considered CS-A77’s life was potentially at risk due to a range of factors, including sexual exploitation, unmanaged mental health problems and a risk of sexually transmitted disease.
There were concerns that CS-A77 had been coerced into carrying large amounts of drugs inside her body.
Similar language was also evidenced in documents relating to CS‑A77, who was described as showing “risk-taking behaviour”. There was an example of an inappropriate use of the word ‘boyfriend’ with reference to adult perpetrators. The Children’s Society reported that, through their Return Home Interview Service monitoring reports in 2017, there were examples of victim-blaming language by both social workers and police officers. One example seriously undermined the severity of sexual abuse the child had experienced
CS-A77 was in care in Tower Hamlets from 2015. In 2017/18 and 2018/19 she went missing 40 and 47 times respectively from an unregulated placement.
There was some evidence of victim-blaming in relation to CS-A22 and CS-A77.
Child CS-A81 female
The evidence relating to the Tower Hamlets case study children showed its previous risk assessment documents being ineffective in assessing risk. Three assessments of 13-year-old CS‑A81 were completed in 2018. One in July 2018 considered her to be at medium risk. In September 2018, she was assessed as being at high risk after frequent episodes of going missing and being seen on Snapchat (a social media platform) and by other young people at house parties. In the same month, the Police Sexual Exploitation Team closed her case (against the advice of children’s social care).434 The risk assessments did not record the age or date of birth of CS‑A81. The London Borough of Tower Hamlets accepted that she should have been graded high risk and that the assessments were generally “on the back foot” and “reactionary”. Overall, it recognised that CS‑A81’s case was “of the utmost concern”.
CS‑A81 was a Tower Hamlets child. Two males were arrested and issued with CAWNs. The Metropolitan Police Service was planning the use of CAWNs against the child when she was 13 years old, with threats of arrest to stop her from associating with her peer group.645 This was challenged by children’s social care, which was concerned that a CAWN would criminalise CS‑A81.
There were failings by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in the assessment of the risk of child sexual exploitation prior to 2019, such as in its assessment of the risk of CS‑A81.950 More recently it has developed a rounded assessment form that moved away from a tick box approach. However, concerns remain as to how long risk assessments take to be completed and reviewed.
Child CS-A90 Male
CS-A90 moved to Tower Hamlets in 2018, when he was 13 years old. He went missing from home a number of times. There were also concerns about his sexual activity, county lines, gangs, and possible emotional and psychological harm. In early 2019, it was reported that CS-A90 intended to hold his birthday party in a hotel with people older than him. A child sexual exploitation assessment was completed and a strategy meeting held. The Metropolitan Police Service accepted that the focus had been criminal exploitation and drugs rather than child sexual exploitation, although CS-A90 had been put on a child protection plan.
An internal police audit found that CS-A90, who was deemed to be a victim of modern slavery following a National Referral Mechanism assessment, had been missing on numerous occasions but the Metropolitan Police Service had not developed a trigger plan for future incidents.
CS‑A90 was a frequent missing child in Tower Hamlets and was attending parties in hotels when he was only 13 years old. At the age of 14 there were concerns about exploitation but Metropolitan Police Service officers decided that this was not a child sexual exploitation case, based solely on a telephone call with children’s social care. The police did not speak to the child or any of his family about the concerns; no trigger plan for the episodes of the child going missing was developed; a mapping exercise of the child’s friendship group was agreed but did not take place; and there was no direct disruption of the hotel. A case audit later found that the Metropolitan Police Service should have fully considered the potential for child sexual exploitation.
In 2016, external inspection found that the Metropolitan Police Service response to children who go missing was poor. By 2018, there were some signs of improvement. Among the case study children, CS-A77 and CS-A90 frequently went missing from home or care without any effective responses