The Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) for all practitioners working with children, including those working in a youth justice setting. It contains information on how to identify and support victims of CSE including in a criminal justice context.
The guide notes the complexity of CSE and of how ‘practitioners should be mindful that a child who may present as being involved in criminal activity is actually being exploited’ (page 7).
Guidance issued by the College of Policing also highlights the fact that CSE victims may commit criminal offences linked to their exploitation, for example, in order to pay back money ‘owed’ to the perpetrator, to purposely attract the attention of law enforcement in an attempt to get away from the exploitative situation they are in and/or as a means of ‘surviving’. The College of Policing advises that ‘Investigators should look beyond the obvious facts when a child or young person is presented to them as an offender, or has been arrested for a criminal offence (or repeated offences)’.
Both guides state that CSE can be linked to other types of crimes such as:
- Child trafficking;
- Domestic abuse;
- Sexual violence in intimate relationships;
- Grooming (including online grooming);
- Abusive images of children and their distribution;
- Drugs-related offences;
- Gang-related activity;
- Immigration-related offences; and
- Domestic servitude (page 8)
The DfE guide provides a list of potential indicators of CSE that practitioners may find helpful in any case where they are representing children at the police station or at court and where they suspect CSE is involved. If you suspect that a child defendant is the victim of trafficking, you should also consider whether the defence of duress under section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act, 2015, might apply. For more information on this, click here.