Sexual exploitation of children 'normal' in parts of Greater Manchester

Credit: PA

Child sexual exploitation has become the "new social norm" in some neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester, according to a new report that calls for a change in public attitudes.

The independent inquiry, led by Labour MP Ann Coffey, details how some schoolgirls told of being regularly approached by older men in the street and urged to get into cars on their way home from school.

She said that young people were often still being viewed as to blame for being a victim and without a "sea change" change in public attitudes, it would be difficult to tackle the problem.

Read: Exclusive: Sexually exploited children 'blamed for being victims'

"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," Ms Coffey said.

The report found that in one case, the Crown Prosecution Service highlighted that a victim wore cropped tops.

In another, the CPS had noted a victim been described as a "slag" by her father.

Both cases were declared "No Further Action".

The increased sexualisation of youngsters through explicit music videos and sexting, selfies and Instagram may be fuelling child sex abuse, Coffey suggests in the report.

She said these had "changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent."

Figures obtained from Greater Manchester Police as part of the inquiry:

  • There are 260 ongoing police investigations into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester

  • This includes 174 recorded crimes, of which 18 involve multiple perpetrators

  • GMP also received 2,286 pieces of intelligence relating to child sexual exploitation in the nine months between March 2013 and January 2014.

Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy Credit: PA

Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, welcomed the report's recommendations and said that tackling the sexual exploitation of children and young people "is an absolute priority" for the force.

“We want children to know that they will be believed and that we will do absolutely everything in our power to protect and help them," he said.

He added, "But protecting children and young people is the responsibility of us all. It is crucial that we work together to identify individuals who prey on vulnerable children and empower young people to speak up."

Home Secretary Theresa May described the report as "disturbing" and said it highlights "unacceptable failings".

Home Secretary Theresa May Credit: PA

The inquiry was commissioned by Tony Lloyd, the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, in the wake of the 2012 Rochdale sex abuse scandal, which saw nine Asian men jailed for grooming girls with alcohol, drugs and gifts before forcing them to have sex with multiple men.

Simon Danczuk, Rochdale's MP, said the report "lacks the independence needed to confront the deep problems in GMP that have allowed far too many paedophiles to get away with terrible crimes".

Bernadette Oxley, NSPCC Regional Head of Service for the North West, said: "There seems little doubt that the growing sexualisation of children is helping feed this dreadful abuse which leaves some of its victims in fear of their lives and suffering mental health issues."