The Public Petitions Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry with the following remit:
To examine the nature and extent of child sexual exploitation in Scotland (CSE); in conjunction with relevant agencies and stakeholders, to determine the most pertinent issues which need to be addressed; to examine the effectiveness of current measures aimed at tackling and preventing CSE; and to make recommendations on what needs to be done to improve the effectiveness of those measures.
What is Child Sexual Exploitation?
It can take many forms. It can include issues of online safety and abuse; involve young runaways, abuse when in care, prostitution, exploitation by peer or adult gangs, rings or groups and child trafficking within and between countries. It can be systematic, complex and insidious.
Definitions and language around child sexual exploitation are contested. In Scotland the current definition of child sexual exploitation is:
"Any involvement of a child or young person below 18 in sexual activity for which remuneration of cash or in kind is given to the young person or a third person or persons. The perpetrator will have power over the child by virtue of one or more of the following - age, emotional maturity, gender, physical strength, intellect and economic and other resources e.g. access to drugs." (Scottish Executive, 2003)
The Committee is aware of legislation and guidance that may be used to pursue CSE perpetrators, and is keen to know why they might be under-used. Scotland now has a new single police force and this could affect how CSE is identified. Information suggests that problems relating to looked-after children are among the biggest barriers to addressing the issue of perpetrators. The Committee also wants to hear about examples of co-ordinated multi-agency disruption and techniques that might lead to successful prosecutions.
In its second tranche of evidence-gathering, the Committee wishes to hear from bodies and stakeholders that work within the current framework aimed at tackling and preventing child sexual exploitation. Organisations might be aware of the barriers to effective practice in relation to the identification, disruption or prosecution of CSE perpetrators. While such organisations will mainly be in the statutory sector, submissions are also welcomed from the independent and “third sector”.
Written submissions are sought in Word version. Ideally, they should be no more than five sides of A4 and should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 31 May 2013. Please refer to the Scottish Parliament’s policy on treatment of written evidence. Written submissions will be handled in accordance with this policy.
Submissions responding to the following key points are particularly welcome:
In your own organisation’s experience–
· What barriers exist to identifying, disrupting or prosecuting child sexual exploitation (CSE) perpetrators? How might these be overcome?
· What difficulties exist around keeping looked-after children and young people (accommodated or at home) safe from CSE perpetrators? How might these be overcome?
· What barriers exist to combating perpetrators’ use of online / social media? How might these be overcome?
· What types of training has your organisation had on ways of identifying, disrupting or prosecuting CSE perpetrators?
· (For Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service): Have you used the 2005 and 2009 Acts* to disrupt, prosecute, charge or convict perpetrators of CSE, do problems remain about using these Acts? If so, please provide detail.
· (For Police Scotland): Lack of co-ordination, and differing policies, among Scotland’s eight police forces were previously seen as difficulties in countering CSE. The Scottish Government has stated that is looking to improve the way CSE is identified by the new single police force. How does Police Scotland intend to make this improvement?
· If you have experienced an example of good practice in relation to any of these questions, please describe it for us.
* The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.
It would be helpful if, when making your submission, you were able to indicate whether your organisation would be willing to give oral evidence. It may be that the Committee will undertake site visits to some organisations.
Anyone wishing to give oral evidence about child sexual exploitation may request that it be given in private. Evidence given in private will be anonymised for the purposes of any report or other published information. The Committee would normally expect organisations to be identified by name.
Child sexual exploitation is a criminal activity. The Committee has agreed the following approach to any information received disclosing potentially significant harm. The Committee is also aware that organisations will also have their own policies in relation to this.
For organisations and individuals giving professional evidence:
The information you give to the Inquiry will be used only for the purposes of the Inquiry. The only exception is information received that suggests someone is currently at significant risk of harm. In that case there would be an ethical obligation for the Committee to report that information to the appropriate authorities, but it would keep your organisation informed about any action it intended to take.
At the analysis stage, because responses may be received from across Scotland, there is a chance that the Committee could identify wider trends which indicate serious criminal activity. If this situation was to arise, the Committee would also have an ethical obligation to inform the appropriate authorities. Again, it would keep your organisation informed about any action it intended to take.
For individuals giving evidence who have been victims of CSE:
In giving this information to the Inquiry you will not be personally identified unless you explicitly wish to be. The information you give will be used only for the purposes of the Inquiry. The only exception is if you give information that suggests someone is currently at significant risk of harm. In that case the Committee would have an ethical obligation to report that information to the appropriate authorities, but it would keep you and your support organisation informed about any action it intended to take.
If you feel, after giving your information to the Inquiry, that you would like to talk further to a police officer about anything that has happened to you, the Committee would be able to provide contact details for an appropriate officer. However no pressure will be placed on you by anyone to do so.