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Child Sexual Exploitation: Sentencing

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 5 September 2017

7. What assessment the Department has made of the adequacy of sentencing for crimes involving child sexual exploitation. (900670)

We have a robust sentencing framework for all crimes involving child sexual exploitation. The changes made in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 reinforced those punishments, giving the Parole Board a greater role to make sure that serious offenders are released only when it is safe.

Mubarek Ali will be released from prison on 1 November, five years after receiving a sentence of 22 years for child sexual exploitation in Telford. As the Minister just said, legislation was passed in 2015 to ensure that most serious offenders cannot be released until they have served two thirds of their sentence and satisfied the Parole Board that they are not a risk. What can he do to ensure that that legislation applies in this case?

I am aware of the case my hon. Friend raises, and of the heinous crimes that were committed and the appalling impact they had on the victims. She will know that the overhaul of the sentencing framework between 2012 and 2015 means that that type of sentence would not now be passed in that type of case. She will also appreciate that I cannot intervene in individual cases and that changes to legislation to strengthen sentences cannot be passed retrospectively. That is the problem and challenge in this case.

Bearing in mind that 56% of all victims of sexual offences in Northern Ireland in 2011 were under the age of 18, will the Minister outline the multi-regional approach that will be taken to deal with the aftermath of the sexual exploitation of children in the transition to adulthood?

That is a detailed and complex area, and I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman on its impact in Northern Ireland.

One barrier to successful prosecutions in child sexual exploitation cases is the fact that, too often, victims are wrongly thought to be complicit in their own exploitation. That highlights the importance of the issue my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) just raised. There must be absolutely no suggestion in any Government guidance that children can be complicit in their own exploitation. That is why the guidance from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority needs to be changed—and needs to be changed now.

The hon. Lady makes a powerful point. No one wants to lay the blame at the door of any victim, let alone the most vulnerable—in this case children. She heard what the Secretary of State said about CICA: it will be looked at in the context of the issues that have arisen recently. It operates in a different context from the criminal justice system, in that it can apply when there has not been a criminal conviction.