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Councils call for new powers to stop child grooming

Councils have proposed a new type of banning order to help stop the grooming of children for sex.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and children’s charity Barnardo’s are calling for the introduction of “disruption orders”, which would give social workers and police a way of intervening in child sexual exploitation (CSE) when they suspect grooming but there is not enough evidence to for a prosecution.

According to the LGA, there have been cases where parents have raised concerns about their children being groomed, but authorities were powerless to intervene because no criminal offence was being committed.

In November last year Birmingham City Council became the first local authority to use a civil injunction to protect vulnerable children from sexual exploitation.

The LGA is calling on the next government to introduce a Bill for the orders in its first Queen's Speech.

Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: "Few parents would be comfortable if their children were spending their time in the company of older men and coming home with expensive gifts and smelling of alcohol. But the reality is that there have been concerned mums and dads who have had to stand by, powerless, as their children have been groomed by vile sexual predators.

"At present sanctions to prevent the grooming of vulnerable children are too limited and we need to make it easier to intervene earlier before harm is done. By making it possible for councils to apply swiftly to the courts for an order to disrupt grooming we can help prevent the lives of children being ruined by sexual exploitation.”

Under the plans CSE disruption orders would be designed to target people suspected of grooming children, to put safe space between them and their victims.

Currently Sexual Risk Orders, which can be applied to any individual who poses a risk of sexual harm in the UK or abroad, can only be applied for by the police.

The new disruption orders would allow local authorities and other concerned parties such as the NHS and schools, to apply to a magistrate on behalf of a child at risk.

The orders would be similar to Domestic Violence Protection Orders or Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) but tailored to the risks associated with CSE.

The orders would see anyone suspected of grooming children for sexual exploitation banned from certain types of activity, such as hanging around outside schools, for a fixed period of time, in specific instances.

Victims would not be required to testify when an application for an order was heard and a breach of a CSE disruption order would be a criminal offence.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Child sexual abuse is a despicable crime which this government is absolutely determined to eradicate.

“The UK already has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders, which we have strengthened through the introduction of Sexual Risk Orders.

“The new orders allow the police, working in partnership with local authorities, health and children’s services, to restrict the activities of offenders who groom children, even when they have not been convicted of a crime.”

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