Somerset

Authorities 'missed signs' of Yeovil child sex abuse, report finds

Child Sexual Exploitation victim
Image caption A report found there were 14 missed opportunities to prevent girls being abused

Chances were missed by authorities to uncover sexual exploitation of teenage girls, a serious case review has found.

Six girls, aged 14 and 15, were groomed by two men who were jailed in 2016 for sex offences in Yeovil.

A report found there were 14 missed opportunities, and criticised social services for not investigating concerns when the girls repeatedly got pregnant.

Somerset Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB) said improvements had since been made to services.

The serious case review, commissioned by SSCB, looked at the case of two of the girls, dating back to 2010.

The girls told investigators they thought they were in relationships with the men, who ran a barber shop and piercing studio in Yeovil.

The review found possible signs of abuse were missed by professionals, including an occasion when one girl had a pregnancy termination aged 15.

Image copyright Wiltshire Police
Image caption Ahmet Kurtyemez and Mehmet Citak were sentenced to 12 years and 20 years respectively

It also revealed one girl was visited by one of the men while she was an inpatient at a mental health hospital in Somerset, and got pregnant again.

The report said lessons must be learned after one of the girls was wrongly taken to court for alleged racial abuse against her abuser, while her abuser was not investigated until years later.

SSCB chairman Sally Halls said there were "points at which opportunities were missed to uncover the real nature of what was happening" and "valuable lessons" to be learned.

'Uncomfortable truth'

"The public perception is that child sexual exploitation is something that happens only in big cities, usually in other parts of the country," she said.

"The uncomfortable truth is that it can happen to children of all backgrounds in communities across the country, including a rural county like Somerset."

Julian Wooster, director of children's services at Somerset County Council, said: "By not providing consistent social workers at the time we didn't actually get to know the young people, understand their issues and understand what was happening in their lives outside the family home."

He said more social workers has since been recruited.

Mehmet Citak, 34, of Bradford Abbas, Dorset was convicted at Bristol Crown Court last year of two counts of rape and seven counts of sexual assault. He was jailed for 20 years.

Ahmet Kurtyemez, 29, from Swindon, was sentenced to 12 years for six counts of sexual assault.

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