A lack of leadership from responsible authorities led to child abusers Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith and Stuart Hall getting away with their crimes for so long, a police chief said today.
Andy Rhodes, Assistant Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary, told delegates at a child sexual exploitation (CSE) conference that gaining knowledge of the subject and acting upon it was the key to tackling the problem.
Representatives from various police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service, a number of councils and various partner agencies in child safeguarding attended the event near Blackburn, Lancashire, as part of Lancashire Constabulary's CSE awareness week.
Mr Rhodes told the conference: "The reason Cyril Smith, Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall got away with what they got away with, which was serious, serious prolonged sexual exploitation of young people, was because leaders who had responsibility to do something, did not do it.
"They turned a blind eye. Buried their heads in the sand.
"There are a lot of leaders around the country (now) becoming aware and increasing their knowledge about what sexual exploitation is all about in their areas."
He continued: "This is not something that just happens in northern towns.
"It is everywhere.
"It is not something that just happens in areas where there is high deprivation.
"It happens in celebrity circles.
"It happens in very, very affluent households."
He said it was the job of those gathered to know about such crimes and to do something about it.
This week it emerged the number of reported sexual offences against children in Lancashire has risen by nearly a third this year.
Lancashire Constabulary received 467 such complaints from April to August this year, compared to a total of 353 in the corresponding period in 2012.
The force has adopted a multi-agency approach to tackle CSE since 2003, with front-line teams consisting of police, health care, social care and voluntary partners working in divisional locations to handle daily referrals.