Skip to main content

Child Sexual Exploitation

Volume 650: debated on Monday 3 December 2018

2. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of police resources to investigate historical cases of child sexual exploitation. (907952)

As the Home Secretary has made clear, tackling the abhorrent crime of child sexual abuse is a priority for the Government, and this is reflected in the fact that it is one of six national threats in the strategic policing requirement.

For victims of historical child sexual exploitation to come forward, they have to have confidence that their claims will be not only taken seriously but tackled with due urgency. A constituent of mine tells me that South Yorkshire police have recently merged their historical child sexual exploitation department with their violent crime department. This means that whenever a new violent crime comes in, victims of child sexual exploitation have to wait for their case to be dealt with. What can the Minister do to ensure that specialism and due urgency are brought to these cases?

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that victims need to have confidence in the police system. That is why we have agreed to provide grants for specialist operations in a number of forces, including South Yorkshire police. Just as critically, we are investing in prevention and technology to identify online abuse.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins) is absolutely right to make that point, but is the Minister aware that the chief constable of Staffordshire, Gareth Morgan, who chairs the committee of chief constables regarding this sort of offence, has told me that there is a growing trend for people accused of such crimes subsequently to wrongly accuse others of such a crime, so that that can be used as mitigation? In other words, they are saying, “Don’t blame me. I’ve already been attacked in this way.”

I thank my hon. Friend, but I cannot comment on the truth or otherwise of his contribution. However, I want to press on the House the Government’s commitment to bear down on this abhorrent crime, not least by providing the police with the support and resources they need in terms of investment and powers.

I commend the Home Secretary for his commitment to preventing all forms of child abuse, but he knows that it is not just the police who need resources; it is survivors as well. Many people come forward only in adulthood to report child abuse, but statutory support stops at the age of 18. Will the Minister make a commitment to provide support to victims and survivors regardless of their age?

The hon. Lady has represented her constituents extremely well, and she has extremely brave constituents who have stood up in this context. We already provide support for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, but I certainly take on board the point that she has made and I will be happy to discuss it with her personally.

If the leaks over the weekend are to be believed, the Government intend to deliver a real-terms cut in Government funding to our overstretched police for the ninth year running. Does the Minister not agree that passing the buck to local ratepayers is unfair to those forces that have cut the most and can raise the least and that it fundamentally fails to meet the demand from legacy and current child sexual exploitation and the enormous demand from cyber-crime and soaring violent crime?

The hon. Lady knows that I will not comment on leaks, but I would simply point out that this Government took the steps that resulted in an increase of £460 million of public investment in our police system this year, in a settlement that she and her colleagues voted against.