New powers help tackle child sexual exploitation
The government recently announced important new powers to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the hotel industry.
These powers will help the police deal with vulnerable young people who have run away and been sexually exploited, a troubling issue that we have identified through our work.
Child sexual exploitation is an abhorrent crime. It can take place in houses, takeaways, parks or nearly anywhere, and often happens in hotels.
At our service in the West Midlands, young people told us about going to ‘hotel parties’ where older adults befriended them, plied them with drugs, alcohol and offered gifts. These individuals make the young people believe they are in a relationship but then force them into sexual exploitation.
Why are the new powers important?
The new powers will give police important measures to tackle this problem and build evidence against perpetrators. They are part of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing bill, which is in its final stages before becoming law later this year.
The bill gives the police powers to require hotels to disclose the personal details of guests, such as names and addresses if they have a 'reasonable suspicion' that someone is committing crimes against children.
These details will provide the police with vital information so they can identify, gather further intelligence and take instant action to prevent guests from sexually exploiting or grooming young people.
The bill also permits the police to close premises used for child sexual exploitation. At the moment, the police can only close the premises of a hotel if prostitution and child pornography offences are taking place there.
'Say Something if you See Something'
Child sexual exploitation can be easy to miss if you do not know its signs. For example, at the hotels where parties were held, staff did not intervene because they didn’t recognise that the young people there were at risk of being sexually exploited.
But staff can be trained to recognise the signs of potential child sexual exploitation and act on these. These signs include large parties in hotel rooms with adults and young people, where large amounts of drugs and alcohol have been consumed and sexual activity has taken place.
That’s why we helped to develop the ‘Say Something if you See Something’ campaign and toolkit. We created this in partnership with the NWG Network, police, local businesses and councils in the West Midlands.
The toolkit can be adapted and used anywhere around the country to help local communities safeguard their young people. It can also be used by hotels to help train their staff to recognise signs of sexual exploitation.
Co-ordinated action from government, hospitality industry
While these new powers are a positive step forward, they rely on hotel staff identifying signs of sexual exploitation. We need to ensure that staff understand that it can occur in their rooms, what its signs are and what they can do to tackle it.
Leaders across national government, local agencies, the hospitality industry and other businesses, police, and voluntary sectors need an action plan to ensure preventing and tackling child sexual exploitation in the hotel industry is given the priority it deserves.
We are working to ensure that steps forward are agreed and included in the revised Sexual Violence against Vulnerable People and Adults Action Plan, which the government is currently reviewing.
In the meantime, please help stop child sexual exploitation in the hospitality industry. Visit the NWG Network website and join the 'Say Something if you See Something' campaign.