Last week I spent a great deal of my time focussed on what more needs to be done to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation as well as domestic and sexual abuse of women and men. I also spent time on the issues of how to detect and prosecute these crimes and support victims to live with their ordeals. I have been working with Devon and Cornwall Constabulary for some time on issues around these crimes and am pleased to see that the voices of those on the front line are informing Government policy and action.
I was pleased to join the launch of a new service in Cornwall for the victims of domestic and sexual violence. It is a partnership between the police, NHS and Cornwall Council and is based in Truro.
I appreciated the opportunity to listen to more professionals, volunteers as well as young people at a meeting in Torbay on Monday. Organised by the Torbay Independent Safeguarding Board this meeting highlighted excellent work in Devon that brings together professionals from across the public sector and charities such as the NSPCC and the Children’s Society to tackle the sexual exploitation of children. We also learned about work around the UK that has really got to grips with protecting young people who are groomed by sex offenders and subsequently raped. I have been shocked by the numbers of children affected in every community across the country. While sexual abuse of children seems like a crime for a different country or in a bygone age, it is something we all need to face up to and tackle in our communities now.
While these are not new crimes, the internet is a new and highly effective tool for the perpetrators of this horrendous crime. The Government has launched a new website that brings together a great deal of information about what all those adults working with or caring for children can do to inform themselves of the risks. This is called the Click Clever, Click Safe campaign and can be found through the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) website or by following this link: http://clickcleverclicksafe.direct.gov.uk/index.html.
As a mum of three children, my simple advice to any parent or carer of a child, is get informed and do not let your children use the internet on a mobile phone or laptop, alone in their bedroom. The bitter irony is that while most parents are concerned about the risks of strangers coming into contact with their children and hurting them in a park or while they are out playing, they are more at risk on Facebook, Bebo or using other social media.
I have also been alarmed by the experiences of young victims in the criminal justice system, especially about failings in the court system. I have written to Ken Clarke, the Secretary of State responsible, asking him to ensure that urgent improvements are made. This week we will be debating the vitally important issues of sentencing offenders as well as looking at bail conditions and release on licence or otherwise. I will highlight the issue and press for changes.