Children who have been sexually exploited are 'blamed for being a victim'

Children are 'blamed for being a victim' in abuse cases, a new report suggests. Credit: ITV News

Children who have been sexually exploited are too often "blamed for being a victim" with their vulnerable past seen as a barrier to prosecution, a new report seen by ITV News suggests.

The study into child sexual exploitation in Manchester, conducted by Stockport MP Ann Coffey, claims public attitudes "still blame children and young people for their own sexual exploitation", allowing alleged abusers to avoid court.

It also found that of 13,000 sexual crimes against children in Greater Manchester between 2008 and 2013, there have only been around 1,000 convictions.

In justifying why a case was not taken to court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) highlighted that one victim wore "cropped tops" and another had been described as a "s***" by her father.

ITV News' Senior Correspondent Emma Murphy reports:

Attitudes among police, social workers, prosecutors and juries need to change to improve the rate of prosecutions, Coffey said.

Other examples used by the CPS to justify a "No Further Action" status - a notice that there is insufficient evidence to charge a suspect - include:

  • "The victim is known (as highlighted by social workers) to tend to wear sexualised clothes when she is out of school such as cropped tops"

  • "Because of her record and her unsettled background as set out above she is far from an ideal victim"

  • "I note her father has referred to a social worker as being a 'slag', saying she is responsible for what has happened"

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, told ITV News' Emma Murphy that it was "inappropriate" for the service to make judgments about victim's behaviour, adding that it needed to do more to enable successful prosecutions.

"I don't agree that we should be using that kind of language - I think it's inappropriate and absolutely wrong that we should be making judgments about people's behaviour.

"The reality is the people who are targeting vulnerable children will target those who they think will not be believed.

"We shouldn't be looking for weaknesses we should be looking for strengths."

Asked whether the service was doing enough for victims, Afzal said: "I think we do as much as we possibly can and we need to do more."

Reacting to her report's findings, Coffey said: "There is one law for some children, and there is another law for another, some children are seen as making good witnesses and and going to court, some are not seen as good witnesses and they never get to court.

"These children are denied justice and worst still, the perpetrators are given a very clear message that society doesn't think these children are of any account and it's not worthwhile pursuing justice on their behalf.

"If society thinks that why should the offender not think otherwise?"

She added: "We need to get across the key message that whatever young people wear and however sexualised they appear, they are still children and need our protection."

One alleged victim, who says she was sexually abused by a gang of men from the age of 14, is still waiting for her case to come to court 10 years later.

"I did try and get the help but nobody would just listen at all - nobody wanted to know."

She added that authorities thought she was "making it up".

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the report exposes something which is "completely unacceptable."

Coffey calls on barristers to examine the "credibility of the allegation, rather than the credibility of the witness".

The report recommends that all of the cases declared "No Further Action" over the past year are reviewed.

It also calls for an investigation into the low conviction rate for sexual offences against children.

The full findings will be published tomorrow.