Barnardo’s warns on exploitation of children in Dundee

Vulnerable children in Dundee are at direct risk of sexual exploitation, a leading charity has claimed.

The issue came to the fore after it emerged the majority of abusers convicted of targeting young girls in the north of England were of Pakistani origin.

In 17 prosecutions since 1997, 53 of the 56 men convicted of sexual exploitation in the north of England were all of Asian background.

However, children’s charity Barnardo’s said the similarities between victims are more important than the racial background of abusers.

Sexual exploitation occurs when an older man showers a younger girl with affection in order to isolate her from friends and family.

Frequently, they will introduce alcohol or drugs to a relationship and may often turn violent. Once their victim is entirely dependent upon them, they will demand they have sex with their friends.

More than 30 children were deemed at risk of sexual exploitation in Dundee in 2009 and it is believed a highly organised network of criminals is behind the majority of cases.

Derek Gray, children’s service manager at Barnardo’s Scotland Polepark service in Dundee said, “At Polepark we work directly with children at risk of sexual exploitation.

“We provide counselling and one-to-one practical advice sessions and work closely with the police and social work services.

“We find some common characteristics present with a lot of young people we work with.

“They may experience home or relationship difficulties, poor or very low self-esteem, substance misuse and episodes of running away from home, all of which can increase their vulnerability to sexual exploitation.”

Assistant director for Barnardo’s Scotland Irene McGugan said the victims of sexual exploitation are not confined to any one social group.

“Sexual exploitation by adults is a real threat for some of the most vulnerable young people in Scotland, especially those who frequently run away from home or local authority care,” she said.

“The problem isn’t restricted to any one group of society, exploitation of children can take place in some of the most deprived areas of the country but equally cases can be found in some of the most affluent.”

She added that the victims of sexual exploitation often know one another because they have been groomed by the same paedophile.

“In a number of cases, the exploited children know each other well despite the fact that they come from completely different areas of town,” she said.

“The only feature they have in common, the only thing that connects them is the fact they know the abuser.

“He will be the centre of the network. Where this happens it is carefully planned. It doesn’t happen by accident.

“There is still a lot of work to do to increase the awareness of sexual exploitation to enable the issue to be addressed more effectively and to offer more effective protection for young people.”

Former home secretary Jack Straw was accused of racial stereotyping when he claimed some Pakistani men prey on white girls because they are viewed as “easy meat.”

He said, “Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.

“But there is a specific problem, which involves Pakistani-heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.”