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Child Sexual Exploitation and Consent to Sexual Intercourse

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 22nd May 2018.

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Photo of Lucy Allan Lucy Allan Conservative, Telford 11:00 am, 22nd May 2018

I fully agree with my hon. Friend that the Solicitor General is an eminent and learned colleague. I also agree with his point about Telford and Wrekin Council. Now that it has decided that it will have an investigation into child sexual exploitation in Telford, it is imperative that it gets on and appoints a chairman. We have already waited two months, and I cannot see that anything has happened yet. I hope it will take the opportunity to delay no longer on that. I thank my hon. Friend for making that point.

To return to the case that I was raising, the family wrote to all those different parties and the answer was that the case had been correctly handled. The CPS sent a letter to the family about the perpetrator who was responsible for the victim’s pregnancy, which said:

“It was right that no charges have been brought in this case.”

It explained why it came to that conclusion by saying that

“the prosecution must prove that a victim was not consenting to the sexual intercourse and...that the person accused did not reasonably believe that the victim was consenting.”

It went on to say that the victim

“was clear that although she may not have wanted sexual intercourse…the suspect would not have been aware from her actions at the time that she did not want to have sexual intercourse…As such a charge of rape is not appropriate and indeed the police did not seek a charging decision from the CPS for an offence of rape.”

It then addressed the possibility of bringing a charge of sexual activity with a child under 16, and said:

“The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the suspect did not reasonably believe the victim was over 16. We could not prove this to the required standard. The victim agreed that she had not told the suspect her age until after she discovered that she was pregnant. I believe a jury may have doubts as to whether the suspect is guilty. For these reasons, it was right that no charges were brought against this suspect.”

I repeat that it was judged

“right that no charges were brought against this suspect”.

The authorities were telling the father of a child victim of abuse that there was no good reason to prosecute the men responsible.

Anyone else looking at the facts of this case would see grotesque and traumatic abuse and exploitation of a child by multiple perpetrators; anyone else would understand the lifelong impact that this horrendous crime would have on this child and her family. But the police did not see that. When I discussed this case with them, it was almost as if they thought that it had been the child seeking out the perpetrators and not the other way round. They did not value the account given by the victim. They did not see an abused child; they saw a young woman who had failed to reveal her true age willingly engaging in sexual activity with multiple men.

Social services became involved in the case after the event and held multi-agency meetings; in fact, they held a number of them. At every one of those meetings, what was discussed was a behavioural contract for the child—a code of conduct for the victim. It was the victim who was placed on a curfew and not allowed out after school. I am sure that everyone in the extensive cast list at those multi-agency meetings meant well and wanted to protect the child from further harm, but why was it her behaviour that was in question and not the behaviour of the men who had committed the crime?