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27 Sept 2022

No child sexual exploitation statistics recorded by Western Trust

‘Unacceptable that Trust failed to properly record the extent of this horrendous crime’ - MLA

No child sexual exploitation statistics recorded by Western Trust

No child sexual exploitation statistics recorded by Western Trust.

It has emerged the Western Health and Social Care Trust failed to record the number of children in residential care who were subject to suspected sexual exploitation for two years.

The revelation came following responses to freedom of information requests submitted by the office of Foyle MLA, Sinead McLaughlin (SDLP) to the Northern, Southern, Western and Belfast Trusts.

Speaking to Derry Now, Ms McLaughlin said she was calling for answers regarding the Western Trusts failure to keep any records of the number of children in its residential care who were subject to suspected sexual exploitation in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019.

She added: “It appears the Western Trust is unique among those Trusts in failing to keep records during these two years.

“The response from the Western Trust also detailed that in 2021/22, eleven children in the residential care of the Western Trust were subject to suspected sexual exploitation.

“Sexual exploitation is a heinous crime and it’s incumbent on all of us to do everything in our power to make sure that no child ever falls victim to such appalling acts. It is deeply concerning and disturbing that there appears to have been a total failure by the Western Trust to keep records on the number of children in its care that were subjected to suspected sexual exploitation for two years.

“I find it absolutely unacceptable to think that the Trust could have failed in its duty to properly record the extent of this horrendous crime against vulnerable young people in these years. This is particularly concerning given the recent concerns that were raised in relation to the number of young at-risk people having gone missing in the Western Trust,” said Ms McLaughlin.

Ms McLaughlin recognised that initiatives had been put in place to try and combat the sexual exploitation of children.

She said: “These have included early intervention and prevention and taking a comprehensive and well-resourced approach.

“However, the truth is that we can only measure the success of these interventions if we understand the trends in the longer-term scale of the problem. Quite often, the cases we know about are often also feared to only be the tip of the iceberg as young people may struggle to come forward.

“I have written to the Chief Executive of the Western Trust asking for answers as to why this was the case and what steps have been taken to ensure all settings in the Trust are now accurately recording the number of children that may fall victim to this terrible crime”.

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