4 Mar 2015

Abuse industrial in scale says Cameron

10:53 am on 4 March 2015

The British Prime Minister says children in the UK have suffered sexual abuse on an "industrial scale" with authorities failing to tackle the problem.

Outlining plans to tackle child sexual exploitation, David Cameron accused people and organisations of "walking on by".

David Cameron

David Cameron Photo: AFP

Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail under the proposals.

And police will now prioritise sexual exploitation as a national threat.

This means such abuse will be treated in a similar way to serious and organised crime, with police forces, chief constables and police and crime commissioners having a duty to collaborate in order to protect children.

The proposals coincide with the release of a review into abuse of children in Oxfordshire that found as many as 373 children may have been the victims of sexual grooming in the county during the past 16 years.

The investigation followed the prosecution of a sex gang of seven men who abused girls in Oxford between 2004 and 2012 and found that police and the local council made "many errors" in that case.

The new plans, which are going out to consultation, involve making it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect those at risk of, and victims of, child sexual abuse.

Social workers, education practitioners and local councillors would be covered by the sanction, which would be introduced as an extension of the crime of wilful neglect of patients by care workers in this year's Criminal Justice and Courts Act.

The plans were unveiled at a meeting in Downing Street - attended by victims, survivors' groups, ministers, police chiefs, council leaders, child protection experts, and health and social care providers.

The opposition Labour party has criticised the plans as a "missed opportunity", saying the government is not going far enough.

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