I was sent a fascinating research document by Jessica Eaton, a Specialist Researcher, Writer and Speaker in Forensic Psychology and Sexual Violence.
This is a very long report, but it provides a comprehensive study of the signs and issues around child sexual exploitation.
The document is entitled “Working Effectively to Address Child Sexual Exploitation: An evidence scope”. It has been produced by Research in Practice as part of the Greater Manchester Child Sexual Exploitation Project, funded by the Department for Education Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.
The report was first produced in September 2015, and was revised by Jessica Eaton in September 2017,
The direct link for the full download is: -
Whilst I read through the report, there was only time to put down a couple of points that I found particularly interesting. The report does repay reading not just for social workers, the police and other safeguarding practitioners, but also lawyers (such as myself) specialising in child abuse compensation claims.
Section 2.4 of the report deals with the creation of stereotypes in Child Sexual Exploitation (“CSE”). The authors point out that the more times a story is reported or told in a specific way, the more likely it is that the general public and professionals will absorb a stereotype of offenders, victims and abuse.
By way of example, there are the recent convictions of a number of sexual offenders of Middle Eastern and Asian ethnic backgrounds, which has led to the view expressed by some politicians that this is a “Pakistani” problem. This is very damaging from the point of view of the multi-ethnic community in which we live. Perpetrators and victims of CSE are known to come from a variety of social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and CSE occurs in both rural and urban areas.
For victims, a stereotype has arisen of a young white girl, generally in local authority care, known to multiple services and with overt vulnerabilities and exhibiting “promiscuous” behaviours. This is very damaging because there is evidence in the Rochdale CSE cases that the authorities simply “gave up” on children whom they considered to be outside of their control, rather than simply being the victims of abuse.
Typically, the media employ words like “sex gangs” and “child sex slaves” and “paedo gangs” which in turn creates a stereotype of organised crime gangs, whereas research shows that only eight per cent of sex offenders abuse children with another offender.
These stereotypes also brush over the complexity of CSE, which is not exclusively about adults abusing children, but also peer-on-peer abuse and the risks that young people face within their own social settings, such as schools. In addition, both males and females are abused through CSE and similarly, both males and females are perpetrators. Perpetrators may be previous or current victims themselves.
Of course, the man or woman in the street might say “I know what a paedophile is, and I know what child abuse is.” If that were true, then I believe that we would have far less of a CSE problem in our society. Time and time again, both organisations and individuals have shown themselves unable to protect children.
Section 4 deals with the recognition and assessment of CSE. This is nothing less than a subtle and sophisticated process.
Stereotypes and terminology are only a very small part of this comprehensive and excellent document.
Section 3.3 talks about grooming. I quote :-
“It is therefore vital that practitioners understand that grooming is not a linear, systematic process carried out by a homogenous group of sex offenders. Practitioners also need to appreciate that harm of the child does not occur only at the ‘end’ of a grooming process. Grooming is itself an offence and a source of harm and manipulation of the child. Linear models such as the grooming line imply that the harm only occurs at the end of the process which ignores.”
This is an interesting concept, because lawyers dealing with child abuse compensation claims would not normally include within that claim, any element of the “grooming” on the grounds that this was not necessarily psychologically damaging. This needs a “re-think”.
This excellent and comprehensive report draws heavily on real life experiences. I commend it to safeguarding practitioners.
MAPPA stands for “Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements”. Briefly these are arrangements set up where the Police, Probation and Prison Services assess and manage the risk posed by sexual and violent offenders. MAPPA has its statutory basis in Sections 325 to 327 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Other organisations are required to work within MAPPA. These include local authority social services, local housing authorities, certain registered social landlords, Jobcentre Plus, electronic monitoring providers, NHS Trusts, Youth Offending Teams and Home Office Immigration Enforcement.
Most of, if not all sexual offenders are subject to restrictions imposed with their sentence. If they break those restrictions, they can be sent back to prison.
The following are the kinds of orders commonly made against sexual offenders: -
A Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) is intended to protect the public from offenders convicted of a sexual or violent offence who pose a risk of sexual harm to the public. It places restrictions on the behavior of the offender, i.e. where they can go. The minimum duration for a full order is five years.
A Notification Order requires sexual offenders who have been convicted overseas to register with the police, in order to protect the public in the UK from the risks that they pose.
A Sexual Risk Order (SRO) is made in relation to a person without a conviction for a sexual or violent offence (or any other offence), but who poses a risk of sexual harm. It may prohibit the person from doing anything described in it, including travel overseas. A SRO can last for a minimum of two years.
Prior to the 21st April 2010, sexual offenders could be subject to restrictions for the remainder of their natural lives. However, after the UK Supreme Court decision in R (on the application of F and Angus Aubrey Thompson) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  UKSC 17, offenders subject to indefinite notification were able to seek a review.
Individuals subject to indefinite notification are only become eligible to seek a review once they have been subject to indefinite notification requirements for a period of at least 15 years for adults and 8 years for juveniles.
MAPPA works by identifying offenders, and then gathering and sharing information about them across relevant agencies. Each offender has a risk management plan to protect the public.
If the system fails for whatever reason, then there is an investigation by the local MAPPA Strategic Management Board. So, a Mandatory Serious Case Review will be prepared when an offender being managed (or who has just been managed) at MAPPA Level 2 or 3 commits a serious offence. There will also be other cases when the MAPPA Strategic Management Board decides that a Discretionary Serious Case Review should be prepared.
Plainly the risk posed by a sexual offender can never be eliminated, but it can be managed.
There are three levels of offenders: -
· Category 1 – Registered sexual offenders
· Category 2 – Violent Offenders
· Category 3 – Other Dangerous Offenders (who do not qualify under 1 or 2 above, but who pose a risk of serious harm.
These offenders are managed according to three different levels of management and risk: -
· Level 1 – relatively low-level risk - Ordinary Agency Management – most offenders – there are no formal meetings to discuss their case.
· Level 2 – medium risk - Active Multi-Agency Management – this means that several agencies will be actively involved with them, and will meet to discuss their cases regularly.
· Level 3 – the highest risk - Active Multi-Agency Management – again several agencies are actively involved in these cases, but the involvement of senior staff from those agencies is required to authorise the use of additional resources, such as for specialised accommodation.
On the 26th October 2017, the government and local police forces published their annual report on their arrangements. These include statistics on the number of offenders that they manage and how the system is working.
Here are some of the key statistics for England and Wales: -
· On 31 March 2017 there were 76,794 MAPPA-eligible offenders. Of these, 72% were Category 1 27.6% were Category 2 and less than 0.5% were Category 3 offenders. There are just under 10,000 in the London Metropolitan area. Avon and Somerset had just under 2000.
· 98% of cases were managed at Level 1
· There were 108 Category 1 offenders per 100,000 of the population. Ten years ago, it was 64 per 100,000.
· The number of Category 1 offenders who were cautioned or convicted for breaches of their notification requirements was 1,739 in 2016/17.
· 697 Level 2 and Level 3 offenders were returned to custody for a breach of their licence conditions in 2016/17.
· The number of MAPPA-eligible offenders charged with Serious Further Offences in 2016/17 was 217.
· The number of MAPPA eligible offenders is increasing year on year. In 2008/2009, the number was just under 45,000.
So, what happens to these men and women who live under the shadow of MAPPA?
The authorities accept that sexual abuse provokes powerful reactions within the community. Re-settlement of offenders into the local community is nothing less than a daunting prospect, and it requires consideration of the needs of the victim, the community and the risks and needs of the sexual offender.
Nonetheless research shows that social isolation and emotional loneliness are key factors in the risk of re-offending.
One organisation that works to meet this challenge is Circles UK whose ethos and vision is to seek greater public protection by working towards a substantial reduction in sexual offending. It does this by supporting local providers in the delivery of interventions that assist socially isolated sexual offenders to reintegrate safely into the local community.
Circles UK recruits, trains and professionally supports appropriate volunteers who are willing to give up their time in order to offer practical support to convicted sexual offenders. It works in partnership with Police, Probation, local Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and other professionals working in the field of child protection.
MAPPA is a powerful means of protecting the public, which in terms of this country's safeguarding history is relatively recent. It cannot give us guarantees, but then what can safeguarding system can do that?