A BLACKPOOL MP has dubbed the resort a child sex exploitation “hotspot” after the Government revealed plans to crack down on the scandalous crimes.
The Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation plan outlined by the Department of Education, includes 46 measures to protect children who are groomed or receive accommodation, drugs, gifts or affection for performing sexual favours.
Charlene Downes, the former St George’s High School pupil who went missing eight years ago is believed by detectives to have been exploited by older men before being murdered.
Despite a massive police inquiry into her disappearance, nobody has been convicted of any crime.
And speaking of the new plan, Paul Maynard MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said: “It’s a sad fact that Blackpool in particular is a hotspot for child sexual exploitation.
“The problem remains an ingrained part of the town’s sub-culture, and all of us who live on the Fylde coast should be deeply concerned at that.”
Following Charlene’s disappearance the Awaken Project was set up in Blackpool, a multi-agency task force combining police and social workers to protect the resort’s most vulnerable youngsters.
Contained within the Government report, which is released today, are also proposals to protect victims of child abuse when they testify in court.
The moves would prevent the heavy cross examinations of victims in cases where there is more than one defendant in the dock, and could allow evidence to be given through a video link.
Mr Maynard added: “Some of the stories I’ve heard of what occurs in my constituency are too shocking to repeat. Young children, often highly vulnerable, need and deserve better protection, and I hope the action plan enables the local police to build on the good work they have already done, and enables all to respond better to this silent tragedy in our midst.”
Det Supt Ian Critchley, of Lancashire Police’s child protection unit, added: “I’m happy this issue is being looked at nationally and we’ll look at the plan and how we can address these issues.
“The multi agency way of working has massively influenced the national project and we will continue to improve our service in this critical area of public protection.”
From July to September 2011, 81 victims of child exploitation were reported to the Awaken Project and 36 offenders were caught in the Western Division, which includes Blackpool and Fylde.
Det Supt Critchley added: “We’ve already raised a significant amount of awareness in our county and through the Awaken Project team.
“But with the interest in the national action plan, it will further raise awareness of the issue.”