16.6 Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators
Last updated 12/11/2018
Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators
Identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators is a key part of work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people from sexual exploitation.
To tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, Merseyside Police will undertake to:
- Identify instances of Child Sexual Exploitation
- Assess and manage risk to children and young people to prevent harm and/or reduce the impact of harm
- Undertake criminal investigations and take positive action against abusers
- Work with partner agencies to support and protect child victims and their families
- Develop intelligence to prevent instances occurring, support investigations and to assist partner agencies to take positive action
- To identify and record themes, patterns and trends in child sexual exploitation.
Investigating child sexual exploitation requires a proactive approach to intelligence gathering, so that patterns of abuse, and the form in which it takes, can be identified both locally and on a larger scale. It is vital this information is shared with partner agencies to help identify and protect those at risk, and to identify potential perpetrators. Ensuring that links are made with children and young people who are going missing, or displaying any other warning signs and can help to identify and manage risk at an early stage.
It is vital that Merseyside Police work closely with partner agencies to develop a coordinated response to any concerns about child sexual exploitation, ensuring that the child’s welfare and safety is the primary consideration when responses are planned.
While the police and criminal justice agencies lead on investigating and prosecuting perpetrators, the support of all partners in gathering and recording information/evidence is vital. All those involved in caring for a child who is suspected to be at risk of sexual exploitation should continually gather, record and share information, as appropriate, to this end. Parents and carers should be encouraged and supported to do so, ensuring that information is recorded in such a way that it can be used by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and accepted in Court.
Where a young person wants and is able to be part of a prosecution, it is essential that they are supported through this process and after the prosecution has taken place. Many of the issues facing young victims and witnesses are addressed in a CPS 2006 Policy document on prosecuting cases involving children and young people as victims and witnesses.
There is a range of criminal offences that perpetrators may have committed under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The Act includes three broad categories of sexual offences against children.
Offences against children under the age of 13 (sections 5 to 8)
Sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 is an offence regardless of consent or the defendant’s belief in the child’s age. Offences are:
- Assault by penetration
- Sexual assault
- Causing or inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity
The offences carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment of life imprisonment or 14 years imprisonment depending on which offence applies.
Offences against children under the age of 16 (sections 9 to 15)
These offences apply regardless of whether the child consented to the sexual activity but, unlike the offences relating to children under 13, an offence is not committed if the defendant reasonably believed that the victim was 16 yards or over. The offences are:
- Sexual activity with a child
- Causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
- Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child
- Causing a child to watch a sexual act
- Arranging or facilitating the commission of a child sex offence
- Meeting a child following sexual grooming (under section 15 an offence is committed if an adult meet or communicates with a child on at least 2 previous occasions, and then meets the child, arranges to meet the child or (the adult or child) travels for such a meeting, where the adult intends to commit a sexual offence).
These offences carry a minimum sentence of 10 or 14 years imprisonment depending on which offence applies. Where the offender is under 18, the maximum sentence is 5 years imprisonment. If any of these offences is committed against a child under 13, the defendants belief of the age of the chid is irrelevant.
Offences against children under the age of 18
There are a number of sexual offences in the Act that apply to all children under the age of 18. These include sexual offences where the abuse of a position of trust (sections 16 to 24) and familial child sexual offences (sections 25 – 29).
When children and young people who are at risk of CSE are found at repeat locations, orders such as the Child Abduction Notices (formerly known as Harbourers Warnings) should be considered.
The Act also provides for offences specifically to tackle the use of children in the sex industry, where a child is under 18 (sections 47-50). These offences are:
- Paying for sexual services of a child
- Causing or inciting child prostitution or pornography
- Controlling a child prostitute or a child involved in pornography
- Arranging or facilitating child prostitution or pornography.
Other Legislative Acts and Orders
The following Orders, Warnings and Notices can be used to help disrupt the exploitation of children and young people:
Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) (March 2015)
The new sexual harm prevention order (SHPO) replaced the sexual offences prevention order and foreign travel order and may be made in relation to a person who has been convicted of or cautioned for a sexual or violent offence (including equivalent offences committed overseas) and who poses a risk of sexual harm to the public.
The SHPO may be made by a court on conviction for a sexual or violent offence, or by the magistrates’ court on application by the police or NCA. A court may impose an order for the purposes of protecting the public in the UK and/or children or vulnerable adults abroad from sexual harm.
An order may prohibit the person from doing anything described in it – this includes preventing travel overseas. Any prohibition must be necessary for protecting the public in the UK from sexual harm or, in relation to foreign travel, protecting children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm.
A SHPO will make the person subject to the notification requirements for registered sex offenders for the duration of the order (that is, it puts them on the ‘sex offenders’ register’), if they are not already.
A SHPO lasts a minimum of five years and has no maximum duration, with the exception of any foreign travel restrictions which, if applicable, must be renewed after five years.
In line with the existing position, breach of an order is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment, the criminal standard of proof continues to apply, the person concerned is able to appeal against the making of the order, and the police or the person concerned are able to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged.
Sexual Risk Order (SRO) (Mar 2015)
The Sexual Risk Order (SRO) replaced the risk of sexual harm order and may be made in relation to a person without a conviction for a sexual or violent offence (or any offence), but who poses a risk of sexual harm.
The SRO may be made by the magistrates’ court on application, by the police or NCA, where an individual has done an act of a sexual nature and as a result poses a risk of harm to the public in the UK or adults or vulnerable children overseas.
“Acts of a sexual nature” are not defined in legislation, and therefore will depend to a significant degree on the individual circumstances of the behaviour and its context.
The term intentionally covers a broad range of behaviour. Such behaviour may, in other circumstances and contexts, have innocent intentions. It also covers acts that may not in themselves be sexual but which have a sexual motive and/or are intended to allow the perpetrator to move on to sexual abuse.
As an indication, it is expected that examples of such behaviour might include the following (note that this list is not exhaustive or prescriptive, and will depend on the circumstances of the individual case):
Those specified acts that were set out for the purposes of the previous Risk of Sexual Harm Order (some of which may be criminal in their own right), which included:
- Engaging in sexual activity involving a child or in the presence of a child.
- Causing or inciting a child to watch a person engaging in sexual activity or to look at a moving or still image that is sexual.
- Giving a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity.
- Communicating with a child, where any part of the communication is sexual.
Acts which may be suggestive of grooming (see section below), such as:
- Contacting a child via social media.
- Spending time with children alone.
Acts which may be suggestive of exploitation, such as:
- Inviting young people to social gatherings that involve predominantly older men or women.
- Providing presents, drink, and drugs to young people.
- Persuading young people to do things that they are not comfortable with and which they had not expected.
Acts which may be carried out in a gang or group of individuals of similar ages, ‘peer-on-peer’.
A SRO may prohibit the person from doing anything described in it – this includes preventing travel overseas. Any prohibition must be necessary for protecting the public in the UK from sexual harm or, in relation to foreign travel, protecting children or vulnerable adults from sexual harm.
An individual subject to a SRO is required to notify the police of their name and home address within three days of the order being made, and also to notify any changes to this information within three days (see SRO notification form attached). A SRO lasts a minimum of two years and has no maximum duration, with the exception of any foreign travel restrictions which, if applicable, last for a maximum of five years (but may be renewed).
As with the SHPO, breach of an order is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. The criminal standard of proof continues to apply, the person concerned is able to appeal against the making of the order, and the police or the person concerned are able to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged. A breach of SRO will make the person subject to FULL notification requirements.
Child Abduction Warning Notices (formerly known as Harbourer’s Warning Notices)
Tackling those incidences where young people under the age of 16 years (under 18 if in local authority care) place themselves at risk of significant harm due to their associations and the forming of inappropriate relationships. Sometimes this is with individuals who are much older than themselves.
The issuing of a Child Abduction Warning Notice is a valuable safeguarding measure to:
- To reduce repeat incidences of such children being missing from the care of those responsible for their welfare.
- To reduce risk that such children are being exposed to.
- To set out a clear, graduated and proportionate response to such cases.
- To set out a clear procedure for the issue and audit of Child Abduction
- Warning Notices so that they are evidentially viable and sound in terms of potential prosecution.
- To adopt a problem solving approach to reducing instances of missing from home.
Links to other Orders include:
- Police Protection section 46 of the Children Act 1989
- The Magistrates’ Courts (Foreign Travel Orders) Rules 2004 – see also sections 114 to 122 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003
- Harassment Warnings (Police Information Notices)
- Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003
Home Office (2014) Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill Fact sheet: Child sexual exploitation at hotels
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provide three new provisions for the investigation of child sexual exploitation offences. Sections 116, 117 and 118 allow the police to issue a notice requiring the owner, operator or manager of relevant accommodation to disclose information where intelligence indicates the premises are being or have been used for the purpose of child sexual exploitation. This includes preparatory or other activities connected to child sexual exploitation.
The police, where they reasonably believe child sexual exploitation is taking place, can request the owner, operator or manager to provide information about their guests.
This includes the name and address, and other relevant information, e.g. age. The information supplied can be used as intelligence to support the investigation of any criminal offences which may have been or are being committed on the premises, thereby helping to identify paedophile rings and other organised groups involved in child sexual exploitation.