Additional funds to tackle Online Abuse

Home Secretary Sajid Javid has announced an additional £23.6m investment is to be made into tackling online child abuse which includes establishing a better understanding of offender behaviour. The investment includes £21m (over the next 18 months) to strengthen law enforcement response to online grooming, videos and images of abuse. The remaining £2.6m will be distributed to child protection organisations with the aim of improving the understanding of offender behaviour and preventing future offending.

The announcement also contained a stern warning for internet firms. The Home Secretary stated that if internet firms failed to:

  • take action to block detected uploaded child sexual abuse;
  • stop child grooming take place on their platforms;
  • shut down live-streamed child abuse;
  • assist law enforcement agencies;
  • share best practice and technology

HM Government would take legislative action via the Online Harms White Paper. Javed stated: “How far we legislate will be informed by the action and attitude that industry takes”

National Crime Agency (NCA) statistics reveal that received referrals relating to images of child sexual abuse have increased by 700% over the past five years, in excess of 82,000 referrals in 2017, with approximately 400 arrests per month (in the UK) for child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse offences. The NCA lead for tackling child sexual abuse, director Rob Jones, said “We are seeing an increase in the number of sophisticated offenders using the dark web to groom and harm children on the mainstream internet. The technology exists for industry to design-out these offences, to stop these images being shared.” 

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), whose aim is to eliminate child sexual abuse imagery online, confirmed that online child sexual abuse is growing and that the use of disguised website abuse is at an unprecedented level, an increase of 86% in disguised websites for the period from 2016 /17. Disguised websites only reveal child sexual abuse content to someone who has followed a pre-set digital pathway.

 

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our E-Safety course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

New Unit to tackle County Lines

September saw the launch of the £3.6m unit to tackle county lines, criminal activity where gangs / criminal networks from urban areas exploit children to establish Class A (e.g. heroin, crack cocaine) drug dealing networks and sell drugs in rural areas using dedicated mobile phone lines. The county lines model involves modern slavery and exploitation of children, often through the use of extreme violence and intimidation. The National County Lines Coordination Centre consists of a 38-strong multi-agency team of experts from the National Crime Agency (NCA), police forces and regional organised crime units. The new multi-agency team will develop the national intelligence picture of the complexity and scale of the threat of county lines activity, prioritise action against the most serious offenders, and engage with government departments including health, welfare and education. A recent NCA national assessment of county lines suggests that more than 1,000 lines are in operation nationally. In a statement from the Home Office, it was revealed that there are 200 active county lines investigations under way and that the introduction of the new centre will allow police forces to intensify their operations.

Last month the first conviction was secured for child trafficking offences related to county lines under the Modern Slavery Act (2015). 21-year-old Birmingham drug dealer Zakaria Mohammed was jailed for 14 years after admitting running a drug dealing operation and trafficking two 15-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. The boys were reported missing from their home in Birmingham and following investigation by West Midlands and Lincolnshire Police were found in Lincoln in a flat where knives and a bundle of cash were discovered. Mohammed had been making regular trips to the flat from Birmingham and a phone used to run the drugs line was found in his car as well as evidence linking him to the missing children.

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our Child Protection Refresher course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here

Modern Slavery

Some three and a half years after the introduction of the legislative requirements detailed in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the initiative to support vulnerable child trafficking victims is set to be expanded. The Act requires Local Authorities to provide independent child trafficking advocates to all children who need them. However, the planned launch of services nationally has been delayed following a review of trials with a Home Office announcement in 2015 citing that the initiative needed further ‘work’. Victims of child trafficking can be subject to sexual abuse, exploitation and criminal exploitation.   The scheme, which has only launched in three ‘early adopter’ areas (Hampshire, Greater Manchester and Wales), is set to be expanded in the West Midlands, East Midlands and Croydon. The three early adopter sites received a total of 215 referrals within the first year. Prime Minister Theresa May has announced a £5m fund to support ‘innovative ways’ to improve the response to child trafficking

Case Review Summary– Elsie Scully-Hicks.

The practice review into the death of 18-month-old Elsie Scully-Hicks found that an overly positive view of adopters meant health and social care professionals missed opportunities to prevent her murder and concluded that professionals failed to connect separate incidents of injuries. The Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Regional Safeguarding Children’s Board’s review found that the emerging pattern of injuries inflicted on Elsie by one of her adoptive fathers were missed because professionals saw the adoption as highly successful. The report states that as professionals involved with the child viewed the adoptive placement as being very successful; the events in the child’s life were viewed through a ‘positive lens’ and ‘the injuries that the child sustained were never considered as anything other than childhood accidents’.

Timeline

November 2015– Elsie is taken to a GP because she can’t bear weight on her right leg. An x-ray finds a fracture, consistent with the parent’s explanation for the injury, but a second fracture is not identified which would have raised child protection concerns.

December 2015– a health professional sees Elsie, who has a large bruise on her head. The health professional accepts the explanation of the injury as being accidental.

March 2016– a 999 call is made by Matthew Scully-Hicks (Elsie’s primary carer) reporting that she has fallen down the stairs because of an unlocked stair gate. The hospital finds superficial bruises and discharges her the same day. There is a three-week delay in the child’s social worker and adoption social worker sharing this information and the primary parent’s explanation for the accident is accepted.

May 12th 2016– Elsie is formally adopted by Matthew Scully-Hicks and his husband.

May 25th 2016– emergency services are again called after Elsie was reported as unconscious. Elsie’s adoptive sibling is present when the call to emergency services is made. Matthew Scully-Hicks gives different explanations to health professionals about what has happened. On examination, Elsie is found to have a full thickness fracture of the skull, fractures to three posterior ribs, hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, brain injury including subdural haematoma, and retinal haemorrhaging.

May 29th 2016– Elsie dies in hospital. The post-mortem indicates that the head injuries that killed her were non-accidental.

December 2016– Family Court exonerates Craig Scully-Hicks (Matthew’s husband) of any failure to protect Elsie.

November 2017– despite insisting he had never harmed Elsie, Matthew Scully-Hicks is convicted of her murder and sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison (less credit for tagged curfew) with release from custody at that time to be determined by a Parole Board. If released this will be subject to licence for the rest of his life.

In her sentencing remarks*, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE states that “the injuries were sustained when you (Matthew Scully-Hicks) gripped Elsie around the chest, your fingers were on her back exerting pressure which fractured her ribs. Having gripped Elsie, you shook her with such force as to cause further injuries. The fracture to the skull was caused by an impact with a hard surface”.

Whilst the practice review found that the adoption process the couple underwent to be robust and comprehensive, in response to the incident the Vale of Glamorgan Council has introduced new procedures including:

  • unannounced visits to adoptive families as part of the follow-up visits after placing children for adoption;
  • out-of-hour visits to adoptive families where a parent works or is often away from home.

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council stated that “Implementing the recommendations of the independent review is a priority for the council and one we take incredibly seriously”.

*The full transcript of R v Matthew Scully-Hicks – Mrs Justice Nicola Davies DBE sentencing remarks can be located at www.judiciary.uk

Here are the relevant online courses we provide that relate to this article:

To find out more about our Child Protection for Staff in Regulated Activity Roles course click here

To find out more about our Child Protection for Ancillary Staff course click here

To find out more about our Child Protection for Administration Staff courseclick here

To find out more about our Child Protection Refresher course click here

To find out about our Safeguarding Suite click here