National child abuse taskforce launched by Police Scotland to stem rise in CSE

National child abuse taskforce launched by Police Scotland to stem rise in CSE

Police Scotland launched a new national task force which aims to tackle child sex exploitation (CSE) by improving work in prevention and encouraging cooperative working between agencies.

The move to create one taskforce follows a recorded rise in offences against young children under the age of 13 in Scotland, with a reported 700 recorded cases in 2012/13.

A multi-agency operation led by Police Scotland into the extent of CSE in Glasgow, Operation Dash, identified that the focus was more often on child victims rather than the “identification of perpetrators”. Findings suggest that more “intelligence-led police activity” should be be focused on the “identification and disruption of perpetrators, groomers and recruiters”.

The new independent taskforce aims to build on the work and findings began by Operation Dash, by further improving “coordination and intelligence gathering” with regards to CSE cases nationally.

Police Scotland’s head of major crime prevention and public protection, assistant chief constable Malcolm Graham, encouraged inter-agency working to reduce and prevent offenses: “A key part of our plan is the development of a national child abuse investigation unit which will lead and coordinate complex inquiries, develop good practice through making the maximum use of our specialist investigation skills and by improving our links with the third sector and local authorities.”

Online activity leading to a CSE related criminal act has been on the increase, with some 283 people being charged for online misconduct in Scotland since 1st April 2014. Graham acknowledged the rise in online activity: “Across the globe the volume of offending through all forms of online activity, whether possession of indecent images of children, online grooming with intent to committing further sexual offences or the exchange of indecent images amongst groups, is escalating due to the increased access to mobile devices, improved download technologies and the development of sophisticated software to conceal activity.”

Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service chief executive, Catherine Dyer, also highlighted the complexity and vulnerability of children living in care: “They have multiple layers of complex needs and concerns. They can willingly associate with older males who offer cigarette, alcohol and a night away for their residential home. Many of these teenage children do not realise that they are victims of exploitation and even when they commence engagement with the criminal justice system they remain extremely vulnerable and distrustful of all agencies.”

Graham states that with further training for police officers and staff, “consistency of response” to children and the improvement of links between the third sector and local authorities, the national taskforce has a “real opportunity to maximise the full extent of [its] specialist skill and expertise in keeping children safe”.