1,400 investigated in child sex abuse inquiry, including politicians

Written by the Guardian:




Officer leading Operation Hydrant inquiry says out of 1,433 alleged offenders 76 were politicians, 43 were from music industry and 135 were from TV, film or radio


Police across the country are investigating more than 1,400 men – including 261 high-profile individuals – over allegations of child abuse in the past, a senior officer running the national operation has revealed.


The scale of alleged child abuse across society – both recent and non-recent – was stark, said Ch Const Simon Bailey, who runs Operation Hydrant, the national coordinating team overseeing the various inquiries.


Figures from police forces in England and Wales published on Wednesday reveal that 1,433 men have been identified in reports of alleged abuse by victims, since the operation was set up in 2014.


Of these 216 are dead, 76 are politicians, both national and local figures, 43 are from the music industry, 135 from TV, film or radio and seven from the world of sport. The cases include recent high-profile convictions, including Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter and Max Clifford.


Hundreds of institutions have been identified by victims of non-recent abuse as places where their abuse took place. These include 154 schools, 75 children’s homes, 40 religious institutions, 14 medical establishments, 11 community groups, nine prisons or young offender institutions, nine sports venues and 28 other places including military establishments.


Bailey warned that the number of victims could run into the hundreds of thousands, and called for much more support for survivors of child abuse. He said he believed that the enormous increase in reports of all types of child sexual abuse – which have risen by 71% since 2012 to 116,000 reports this year – was not just down to more victims coming forward.


Instead, Bailey warned that the internet was creating the opportunity for more abuse to take place, and said live-streaming of child abuse on mobile phones was the next challenge facing law enforcers.


Bailey said the number of reports of abuse, both by adults of historical abuse, and by children today, was increasing on a daily basis, and the figures released on Wednesday were just a snapshot of the challenge faced by the police and society as a whole.


He supported calls for much more funding for victims of child abuse. “The government has allocated millions of pounds to provide additional support, but I am not sure that is going to be enough. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of victims,” he said.


Of the 116,000 reports of child sexual abuse this year, 52,446 are allegations of sexual abuse in the past, some involving cases going back decades. This amounts to a 166% increase in reports of non-recent abuse, said Bailey.


Detectives on Operation Hydrant are coordinating the many investigations into non-recent abuse involving both high-profile individuals and institutions, from a hub in Sheffield.


A team from Operation Hydrant is liaising with Justice Goddard to support the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.


Each of the 1,433 suspects has been put into a major crime database, which is cross referenced to ensure that no inquires are being duplicated and to identify suspects whose offending crossed borders. So far 30 individuals have been identified in one or more of the investigations.


Bailey said the figures were stark. “This year I am anticipating an estimated 116,000 reports of child sexual abuse will be received, that is a 71% increase since 2012, so it gives you some idea of the scale of this.


“What we are seeing is an absolutely unprecedented increase in the number of reports that are coming forward. That has brought about a step-change in the way the police service has had to deal with this. We are rising to and meeting the challenge, this is what Operation Hydrant is about.”


Bailey said the Hydrant team was working to create a database which would try to ensure that the failures of the past – as identified in the Jimmy Savile case – would not be repeated.


During the investigation of the late Radio 1 DJ it emerged that intelligence and information, including reports of abuse, were buried in the system – in some cases to prevent leaks – which meant when individual police forces with their own allegations checked the national police computer database his name did not come up.


“One of our primary objectives is to make sure where we get intelligence and where we get evidence of abuse it is being coordinated so we don’t make those mistakes. That particular case showed mistakes were made and he was able to go on and continue further abusing. The whole idea is that we don’t make those mistakes again,” he said.


Bailey said everyone from teachers, GPs, parents and wider society had a duty to look out for signs of abuse. He said: “We face a massive challenge in terms of resources, time and expertise to balance offering routes of justice for those who suffered in the past while safeguarding and protecting children in a vulnerable position today.”


Sheila Taylor, from the national working group on child sexual exploitation, said a massive public health campaign was needed to address the scale of child abuse within society.


John Brown from the NSPCC said the failure to support victims amount to a public health problem. “That is the issue. We are not helping children and adult victims to recover and there are huge costs to society, there are economic considerations and individual psychiatric costs.”


Tom Watson, the Labour MP whose claims made in the Commons that there was a paedophile network linked to parliament triggered a Scotland Yard investigation, said: “The sheer number of allegations just shows why there should be a dedicated national police response to child abuse inquiries. Intelligence gathering and data sharing will be far easier were there to be a dedicated team comprising of specialists from around the country.


“We are only just beginning to understand how as a country, over many generations, we managed to turn a blind eye to Britain’s child abuse scandal. The survivors deserve justice and future generations require greater protection.”


Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), said: “The scale and scope of sexual abuse of children committed in the past can often seem overwhelming. What these figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council do is to provide some degree of measure of the issue.


“And what a measure it is; prolific offenders from all spheres of society, thinking they were untouchable, abusing children and the most vulnerable in settings where they should have been safest , including schools, care facilities and religious institutions.”


Sexting could see teenagers branded as sex offenders


Written by Guardian 4th May 2015


A teenager younger than 18 who takes a nude selfie using a cameraphone is, under current law, guilty of the serious offence of creating child pornography. Photograph: Wavebreak Media/Alamy


Teenagers are being unfairly labelled as sex offenders for sending explicit messages to each other, campaigners have said.


They say criminalising 16- to 18-year-olds for sending explicit pictures to one another shows how disconnected the political establishment is from changes to technology and social values.


A teenager younger than 18 who takes a nude picture of themselves using a cameraphone is guilty of the serious offence of creating child pornography. This is the case even if they are over 16, the age of sexual consent.


In one case last year, a schoolgirl received a police caution for texting a topless picture of herself to her boyfriend. Police at the time warned that youngsters could find themselves on the sex offender register.


Myles Jackman, a lawyer who specialises in obscenity law, said: “It’s just not clear enough for young people to know that, despite being over the age of 16 and therefore the age of consent, they can’t take erotic selfies and send them until they are 18.


“This disparity between the age of consent – where a person can perform an act – and the age of representation – where a person can record or view that act – seems counterintuitive and dangerously against sex education.”


Jackman is a legal adviser to Backlash, an anti-censorship civil liberties campaign group that is raising the alarm over the discrepancy in the law. The group is extending its remit to give legal advice to young people threatened with prosecution for making sexual images of themselves and sharing them consensually on digital media.


A spokesman said: “When authorities find these images, teenagers themselves become subject to laws originally aimed at stopping child abuse, even though no abuse has taken place. These prosecutions cause immense mental distress, and disruption to education. A prosecution, regardless of sentencing outcome, severely harms the future life prospects of young people.”


The warning comes amid heightened moral panic around young people’s sexuality that campaigners say is being used to justify increasing internet censorship.


A since-discredited NSPCC survey claimed last month that a tenth of 12- to 13-year-olds had reported the “fear” that they were addicted to pornography.


Despite the subsequent revelation that the survey was produced by a marketing company, its results prompted the culture secretary, Sajid Javid, to declare that the Conservative party would introduce further measures to protect children from harmful material.


Concern over the impact of online porn in 2013 spurred the government to announce a scheme to force internet users to decide whether they wanted their provider to block websites showing adult content.


Most major internet service providers have signed up to the scheme, but a report published last year by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, found that about 60% of customers had chosen to switch them off.


In December, the government introduced widely criticised rules that ban producers of pornography from filming sexual activities such as spanking and bondage.



Social workers warn benefit cuts will hit the most vulnerable children

Written by Kathleen Nutt of The National Scot 


SCOTLAND’S social work chiefs have raised significant concerns about the impact of welfare cuts on the country’s most vulnerable children.


They believe the changes championed by Iain Duncan Smith when Work and Pensions Secretary will increase the number of youngsters living in poverty, placing them at a higher risk of abuse, poor health and low educational attainment.


They also said the reforms may lead to more children and young people ending up homeless, turning to drugs and getting involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.


The intervention comes as the debate over austerity and the Coalition Government’s welfare reforms continues to be a key issue in the lead-up to General Election on May 7.


The stark warning was made in a written submission by Social Work Scotland, formerly the Association of the Directors of Social Work, to a Holyrood committee.


“Scotland has achieved a decrease in child poverty rates in recent years. It is anticipated that welfare reform will undermine this progress,” it said.


“Research consistently shows that children who grow up in poverty are vulnerable to certain types of maltreatment – particularly neglect and physical abuse.


“Children in poverty have an increased risk of adverse experiences or negative outcomes – both long- and short-term. These include poor health (physical and mental), death from illness or accident, educational disadvantage and disaffection, unemployment, poverty during adulthood, criminalisation from anti-social behaviour or offending and are more likely to be victims of crime.”


It added: “Poverty is linked to violence, criminal damage and drug use more than other types of offending.”


Among the sweeping reforms introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition at Westminster were a tightening of eligibility for sickness and housing benefits and a reduction in help with childcare for working parents through changes to tax credits.


The reforms also included a stepping up of sanctions on jobseekers breaching rules as well as the introduction of the the so-called “bedroom tax”, which reduces housing benefit to claimants assessed as having a spare bedroom in their home. The SNP have said they are scrapping the tax in Scotland.


The Social Work Scotland submission to Holyrood’s Welfare Reform Committee raised particular fears about the impact of Universal Credit – a new “super-benefit” replacing six existing benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, tax credits, Income Support and housing benefit.


It will mean households will have to pay their rents to a landlord rather than the rent being paid directly to the landlord by the state. The social work bosses fear households on tight budgets may end up not paying their rents and being evicted.


Their submission said: “Basically, children who experience homelessness are more likely to group up with respiratory illness, poor mental health and are twice as likely to leave school without basic qualifications.


“Increased homelessness is widely anticipated as a result of Universal Credit being paid directly to individuals.”


They also believe the reforms will increase pressure on frontline local authority services tasked with supporting the vulnerable, and that councils may lose revenue as households on tight budgets find it difficult to pay rent.


During the General Election campaign SNP and Labour have been battling over which party has the better alternative policies to welfare reforms, while the Conservatives insist the programme was necessary as a means of getting more people into work while strengthening the economy and cutting the budget deficit.


The Tories have also pledged to step up the reforms if re-elected, reducing the welfare budget by a further £12 billion a year by 2017-18 and reducing the benefits cap to £23,000 per household a year.


Last month Professor Steve Fothergill, of the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, said welfare reforms would cost Scots £1.5bn a year by 2018, and households with young children would be hit by about two-thirds of the benefit losses.


The most recent statistics found more than half a million Scots were trapped in “severe or extreme poverty”, with the numbers rising by 100,000 a year.


The Scottish Government report found 510,000 people in Scotland living in “severe or extreme poverty” in 2012-13 – a sharp rise from 410,000 during the previous year. Severe poverty is defined as living with an income lower than £11,500, or 50 per cent of UK median income, while extreme poverty is defined as lower than £9,200, or 40 per cent of UK median income.


Alistair Gaw, vice-president of Social Work Scotland, is among the experts due to give evidence tomorrow to members of the welfare reform committee on the impact of welfare reform on vulnerable children and children’s social work services.

Children need to be taught that X-Rated images are not normal and parents must seek help


Dr Eileen Vizard


Dr Eileen Vizard is a Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist.


She is also former clinical director of the National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS) – a national service run by the NSPCC in partnership with NHS trusts to help children and young people exhibiting harmful sexual behaviour.


If we can stop a child offending and developing into an adult sex offender, we can save dozens of potential victims from being abused.


Fortunately, in our experience it’s rare any young person who sexually abuses is ‘beyond help’.


Alongside suitable punishment where appropriate, treatment that may be both intensive and long term can help them understand the impact of their behaviour and turn their lives around.


But it’s a difficult process, and the earlier we can intervene, the better. So we would ask parents to come forward and call the NSPCC as soon as they suspect something isn’t right.


We then have to interrupt the thought process that leads them to offend and help them to develop non-abusive responses to these thoughts.


It’s similar to what we all do if we are about to lose our temper or say something we know we’ll regret.


But here the consequences are far greater. Increasingly we are seeing the impact easy access to pornography can have on young people.


Being exposed to it at a young age can warp children’s views of what is normal sexual behaviour.


Some children will act out things they may have seen in porn.


It can be hard for children to understand the impact their behaviour has on others and also the consequences for their own lives. So these are things we focus on in treatment sessions.


A small number of older children may not have had help early enough and may have entrenched sexual interest in children.


This group needs specialist mental health treatment. In most cases, we can turn this behaviour around and protect other children.


It’s not easy and there are no quick fixes. But through specialist services, such as NCATS we can, and do, prevent more abuse.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos

Linda Papadopoulos (Pic:Getty Images)
Expert: Dr Linda Papadopoulos


A psychologist who wrote a report for the Home Office in 2010 on ways to protect children from exposure to sexual imagery says not enough is being done.


Her findings said boys were becoming fixated on being macho and dominant, while girls presented themselves as sexually available.


Just a handful of the 36 recommendations made by Dr Linda Papadopoulos in 2010 were acted on – including the introduction of new age ratings for music videos. She says:


Some of the things I suggested were acted on, but I feel strongly that the Government could absolutely be doing more to tackle this problem.


A fundamental thing we need to be doing is to teach children in schools the difference between pornography and normal sexual behaviour.


They are two very different things and sadly a lot of children are learning about sex and relationships from pornography and getting a very warped view.


I think politicians do recognise the importance of the issue, but sadly what tends to happen is that other things take precedence with regard to budgets.


And unless you shout loud enough – and for long enough – things just don’t happen. There is not just one thing you can do to fix this.


There are many factors that need to be dealt with. Finding a way of stopping under-18s accessing online pornography should be made a priority.


I think clicking a button on adult websites to say you are 18 isn’t good enough and there are ways around that.


There are people talking about the use of credit cards to do that. Something as simple as that would keep a lot of kids away from online porn.