Major investigation into sexual exploitation of young people in care

Girl with head in hands The PSNI said the abuse is thought to have taken place outside care homes

Police have begun a major investigation into the sexual exploitation of children and young people who have gone missing from care in Northern Ireland.

The health minister has said the abuse was on a scale not seen before in NI and compared it to recent high-profile court cases in Rochdale and Oxford.

The police have identified a group of 22 young people "who may be at risk".

It follows a PSNI review of cases where young people have gone missing from the care system over the last 18 months.

'Increasingly concerned'

It is claimed that vulnerable young people were taken to parties organised by groups of men.

They were plied with alcohol and given gifts before being assaulted.

The abuse is thought to have taken place outside care homes.

The police would not reveal details of individual cases, but in a statement, they said officers had become "increasingly concerned about the issue of child sexual exploitation following an internal review.

Start Quote

Paul Givan

The public will be deeply concerned at this development and need to hear from the relevant authorities as to what has happened”

End Quote Paul Givan Justice committee chairman

"As part of this review, we have identified a group of 22 young people who may be at risk from child sexual exploitation and are seeking to identify those who may have committed crimes against them."

Pam Hunter of the charity Nexus, which offers counselling to victims of abuse, said: "It's a shocking news story.

"The whole thing about this crime is that people groom you and entice you with gifts and money and you think you're walking into this voluntarily, but it is a crime.

"Hopefully the police are working hard to catch these criminals, because it needs to be stopped and stopped now."

BBC NI reporter Chris Page said officers believed that although the case was complex there was enough evidence to go ahead and launch an investigation.

It is believed social services staff are working with the police on the investigation, and the children's charity Barnardo's will support them.

The police have said they want to raise awareness of the issue to identify any young person who may be at risk, and ensure they are protected.

Stormont meeting

They have asked for victims of child exploitation or anyone who has concerns about a young person at risk to come forward.

The abuse investigation is due to be discussed at Stormont on Monday, in a joint meeting of the assembly's health and justice committees.

Health Minister Edwin Poots and Justice Minister David Ford are due to attend the meeting which was called by the justice committee chairman, Paul Givan.

Mr Poots said his staff would do all they could to deal with these allegations.

Mr Givan described the reports of child sexual exploitation as "gravely disturbing".

"The horrors of these crimes leave us only to pray for the victims and work towards ensuring the perpetrators are brought to justice.

"The public will be deeply concerned at this development and need to hear from the relevant authorities as to what has happened," the DUP MLA added.

Mr Givan said the meeting would provide "an opportunity to probe what actions are being taken to investigate and bring to justice those responsible".

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Northern Ireland stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine


  • Plane at Shannon airportShannon's call

    The airport that hosted a roll-call of presidents


  • Record playing on turntableVinyl destination

    The eight tribes of people who keep buying records


  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at RAAF Amberley airbase near Brisbane on 19 AprilIn pictures

    Fighter jets and screaming crowds for William and Kate


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

    It's never been easier for small businesses to get their message out to the world

Programmes

  • Tuna and avacadoThe Travel Show Watch

    Is Tokyo set to become the world's gourmet capital?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.