Predators could be stopped from grooming with new banning order, councils say
Written by the LGA
Predatory men suspected of grooming children for sex could be stopped immediately if a new type of banning order was introduced by the new government, local government leaders say.
Children who are being groomed for sexual exploitation are at risk of being harmed because too often officials are powerless to intervene in suspicious behaviour, council leaders warn.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, is now calling for the introduction of ‘disruption orders’, which is supported by children’s charity Barnardo’s. These would be backed by the courts and give social workers and police a way of intervening in child sexual exploitation (CSE) when they suspect something is going on but cannot provide evidence to bring a criminal prosecution without a child having been already harmed.
Child protection experts have voiced concerns over recent instances where they were hindered from acting in the best interests of vulnerable children. There have been cases where parents have raised concerns about their children being groomed, but authorities were powerless to intervene because no criminal offence was being committed.
In Birmingham, the city council has used civil injunctions against men in cases where child sexual exploitation was believed to be taking place but there was not sufficient evidence for a criminal prosecution.
The LGA is calling on the next government to introduce a bill for the orders in its first Queen’s Speech.
Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:
“Few parents would be comfortable if their children were spending their time in the company of older men and coming home with expensive gifts and smelling of alcohol. But the reality is that there have been concerned mums and dads who have had to stand by, powerless, as their children have been groomed by vile sexual predators.
“At present sanctions to prevent the grooming of vulnerable children are too limited and we need to make it easier to intervene earlier before harm is done. By making it possible for councils to apply swiftly to the courts for an order to disrupt grooming we can help prevent the lives of children being ruined by sexual exploitation.
“We need a commitment from the next government that they will act swiftly to legislate for these orders, so no more communities will suffer the scars of child sexual exploitation. The introduction of Sexual Risk Orders is an important step in giving the police more powers but we need to extend this to the wider community if we are to tackle CSE effectively.
“We are not trying to pass a sentence before someone has been charged, nor do we intend to stop people from carrying out their normal daily activities. But we need to know children are safe from the menace of CSE and disrupting the activities of those we suspect of grooming young people can only help this.”
CSE disruption orders would be designed to target people suspected of grooming children, to put safe space between them and their victims. They differ from the current Sexual Risk Orders in that they can be granted by a court on the application of local authorities and other concerned parties such as the NHS and schools, where they can show that their concerns are sufficient that magistrates would be willing to grant them. The orders would be similar to Domestic Violence Protection Orders or Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) but tailored to the risks associated with CSE.
The orders would see anyone suspected of grooming children for sexual exploitation banned from certain types of activity, such as hanging around outside schools, for a fixed period of time, in specific instances.
Victims would not be required to testify when an application for an order was heard.
A breach of a CSE disruption order would be a criminal offence.