Scottish child exploitation and prostitution inquiry launched

child Barnardo's raised concern that the true scale of exploitation was not known

Related Stories

A Scottish parliamentary inquiry into child sex exploitation and prostitution has been launched, amid claims the problem may be far worse than thought.

Holyrood's petitions committee is looking into the issue following the concerns from children's charity Barnardo's.

MSPs will consider whether current measures and guidelines are doing enough to tackle exploitation.

They will take evidence before reporting their findings.

The government said Scotland had one of the world's best child protection systems, and earlier this year announced a plan which aims to deal with the concerns which have been raised.

Child exploitation can cover a range of activity, from exchanges of sex for attention or gifts to serious organised crime, with young people who are vulnerable or from deprived backgrounds at particular risk.

The committee launched its inquiry after being presented with a petition from Barnardo's Scotland stating that many children and young people were being put at risk of being exploited because of a lack of reliable information which was failing to paint a picture of how bad the problem was.

Child sexual exploitation

Barnardo's defines child sexual exploitation as: "Any involvement of a child or young person under the age of 18 in sexual activity for which a remuneration of cash or 'in kind', is given to the child or young person, or a third party or person.

"The perpetrator will have power over the young person by virtue of one or more of the following - age, emotional maturity, gender, physical strength and intellect."

The charity also said current guidelines dated back to 2003 and, despite being updated in 2010, only highlighted child sexual exploitation in complex cases and serious organised crime, leaving "clear gaps" in the system.

It stated in its petition: "We our concerned that the current level of child sexual exploitation in Scotland is far higher than is currently known and that, without robust data and information, many children and young people are being put or are at risk of being exploited."

Barnardo's has now called on the Scottish government to bring forward a completely new set of guidelines which would place a greater burden on local authorities and take account of how the internet is being used to further exploitation.

Petitions committee convener and Labour MSP David Stewart said: "A childhood free from exploitation of any sort should be a right for every child.

"Our committee wants to examine the current measures in place to tackle this shocking and devastating practice.

"We will also look at what needs to be done to address the sexual exploitation of children as well as supporting victims to rebuild their lives."

The inquiry is seeking to establish the most common types of exploitation and how young people become caught up in it.

The cross-party committee also hopes to find examples of good and bad practice among agencies dealing with the problem and recommend any changes it thinks are needed.

Under a programme of action to tackle child sexual exploitation announced in January, the Scottish government pledged to:

  • Improve identification of potential victims, many of whom do not recognise themselves as victims of abuse.
  • Improve the way the problem is identified by Scotland's new single police force.
  • Encourage victims to come forward through a new confidential service.
  • Set up an expert group to learn lessons and make recommendations to ministers.

The petitions committee said it wanted to hear from those working to tackle child sexual exploitation as well as people who support victims.

Submissions to its inquiry close on 30 April.

More on This Story

Related Stories

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

More Scotland politics stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

  • French luxury Tea House, Mariage Freres display of tea pots Tea for tu

    France falls back in love with tea - but don't expect a British cuppa


  • Woman in swimming pool Green stuff

    The element that makes a familiar smell when mixed with urine


  • People take part in an egg-cracking contest in the village of Mokrin, 120km (75 miles) north of Belgrade, Serbia on 20 April 2014In pictures

    Images from around the world as Christians mark Easter Sunday


  • Female model's bottom in leopard skin trousers as she walks up the catwalkBum deal

    Why budget buttock ops can be bad for your health


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • ITChild's play

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

Programmes

  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

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.