Today, Wednesday 21st September, partner agencies attended the first multi-agency Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) training event hosted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

CSE is a crime that is hidden in plain sight in every society, sometimes undiscovered by Police or other agencies who are providing a safeguarding role in a community. Therefore it is vital that training and awareness raising is in place to teach people on how to spot the signs and give them the confidence to report to Police if they feel something is not right.

There are lots of signs partners are being asked to look out for:

  • Adults befriending young people and acting in an intimate way with them
  • Adults accompanying young people who look to be confused or distressed or under the influence of alcohol/drugs
  • A young person looking concerned or frightened in the company of adults
  • Adults giving young people gifts such as Jewellery, clothes, perfume
  • Adults buying alcohol for persons you suspect to be under 18

The Police Service of Northern Ireland describe ‘disruption’ as being a ‘powerful weapon’ for combatting CSE, by arming the public and key partners will the tools to intervene early, helping to stop further abuse in the long term.

At today’s training event, a wide range of partners were present, including the Public Prosecution Service, Judiciary, Social Workers, Youth Justice Agency, Education Authority and the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

Detectives leading on tackling CSE for the Police Service took this opportunity to also brief those in attendance on their new internal process. The ‘person of concern referral process’ is an encouragement to officers and staff to share concerns about those they are investigating, where they have intelligence to suggest they could be sexually exploiting a child.

This new procedure supports Detectives to conduct research and work with social services to gather information on that person of concern, and take the necessary proactive action in order to prevent repeat offending and safeguard children.

Detective Chief Inspector Kerry Brennan said: “As part of the Police’s ongoing operation ‘Make Safe’, CSE Detectives supported by local neighbourhood officers have been busy delivering a suite of training packages to the night time economy for nearly a year.

“If a child is being sexually exploited and has presented specific vulnerabilities, it is likely that the agencies present at today’s event would come in contact with that child in some way or be directly involved in safeguarding them.

“Therefore, collaboration is crucial to effectively work together to spot the signs, intervene early and put processes in place that allow us to successfully disrupt offending and bring perpetrators before the court to answer for their crimes.

“We will continue to raise awareness of CSE in our communities and find ways to give children who may be suffering in silence, a voice.

“Today is one of many events and awareness raising exercises we will be undertaking, to provide our local community with the tools they need to be vigilant to these crimes.”