Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Behind the Respectable Shop Fronts Lies a Vile World of Child Abuse; Charity Issues Call for Action

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Behind the Respectable Shop Fronts Lies a Vile World of Child Abuse; Charity Issues Call for Action

Article excerpt

Byline: Liz Walker

THE shocking reality of a growing trend in child sex trafficking in the North East is today revealed by a leading children's charity.

Shielded behind legitimate businesses such as takeaways or taxi firms, there is a growing phenomenon of paedophile networks delivering young girls around the country into the hands of older men, says Barnardo's.

Barnardo's North East is working with 103 sexually exploited children and young people across the region - some as young as 11 - and the figures are growing year on year.

But charity workers say this is merely the "tip of the iceberg" and local authorities and police need to take more action to save these vulnerable young people from a life of abuse.

Wendy Shepherd, programme manager from Barnardo's North East says: "I believe that sexual exploitation is becoming more organised; the criminals who abuse are more sophisticated.

"There are networks of older men grooming and trafficking children within the UK. Many of these networks are hidden behind a legitimate taxi business or pizza bar - but it's a growing phenomenon and it's extremely difficult to police whilst the legal emphasis is still on the child to make a complaint.

"It's time we started using every aspect of the law to prosecute these men. How can it be right for a 25-year-old to have sex with a 13 or 14-year-old girl? This is abuse and we have a duty to protect these vulnerable children.

"The children we work with feel a terrible sense of shame. They've been forced to do awful things by the adults who groom and control them - yet somehow society blames them.

"A frightening number of the children who go missing repeatedly are found to have been sexually exploited. The risk factor is huge and largely ignored.

"If we could identify these children, and the abusing adults who encourage them to run away, earlier, we could significantly reduce the number of children being exposed to these horrific risks. …

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