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Harrowing details of rape as child sex abuse inquiry opens into how Tower Hamlets and 5 other authorities cope

PUBLISHED: 13:36 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 19:53 21 September 2020

Independent inquiry into child abuse opens, chaired by Alexis Day who led inquiry into Rotherham sex grooming scandal. Picture: Mike Brooke and (inset) IICASS

Independent inquiry into child abuse opens, chaired by Alexis Day who led inquiry into Rotherham sex grooming scandal. Picture: Mike Brooke and (inset) IICASS

Mike Brooke + IICASS

The number of children under the care of Tower Hamlets Council where there are concerns of exploitation has reached 161, a public inquiry has been told.

Tower Hamlets is one of six local authorities around the country chosen for inquiry into how social services cope with child sex exploitation. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets is one of six local authorities around the country chosen for inquiry into how social services cope with child sex exploitation. Picture: Mike Brooke

The statistics emerged at the Independent Inquiry into how Tower Hamlets and five other local authorities around the country respond to child sex abuse which has opened today with a summary of harrowing reports of rape and abuse.

Barristers are making opening statements of evidence that’s being presented over the next two weeks citing past evidence of girls as young as 12 forced into sex by networks of perpetrators in the north of England.

The inquiry is looking at how six “sample local authorities” that have been selected for the inquiry in east London, the Midlands, West Country, Wales and North of England respond to abuse and exploitation.

One historic case cited today was a girl of 13 raped and forced into oral sex while being passed around a network of up to 150 men.

QC Antonia Benfield... Girl of 13 QC Antonia Benfield... Girl of 13 "was passed around for oral sex with 150 men." Picture: IICASS

QC Antonia Benfield spoke of young girls being groomed and abused who end up involved in the networks and sometimes in prison themselves.

She spoke of one victim in Rochdale identified as “Daisy” who was age 12 when she was put in contact with a network of men by a school-friend’s prostitute mother.

“Daisy was forced into sex and abused at 13 and was made pregnant at 14,” Ms Benfield said. “She was passed around for oral sex with 150 men.”

A police operation began which led to the Rochdale Grooming trial where “Daisy” gave evidence. Nine men were jailed.

QC Henrietta Hill... QC Henrietta Hill... "There were 1,002 cases in 2018 and 5,900 (known) cases sex grooming, as well as rape and assault." Picfure: IICASS

QC Henrietta Hill soke of “thousands of children exploited every year”.

She told the inquiry opening: “There are 40,000 children in contact with social services and other children the authorities don’t know about.

“There were 1,002 cases in 2018 and 5,900 (known) cases sex grooming, as well as rape and assault, with 90 police investigations this year.

“But the (true) scale is under-reported. The numbers are much higher.”

The exploitation has a harmful effect and devastates lives into adulthood and even old age, she pointed out.

The inquiry focuses on the six separate local authority areas over the next nine days, Tower Hamlets, St Helens in Lancashire, Swansea in South Wales, Durham in the North East, Bristol in the West and Warwickshire in the Midlands, all chosen representing a range of sizes, demographics and institutional practices.

The hearings assess the extent to which safeguarding services like Tower Hamlets have learned lessons from high profile cases such as Oxford, Rotherham and Rochdale.

Tower Hamlets launched a child exploitation team in 2018 following a scathing report by Ofsted the year before exposing gaps in its child protection procedures with many cases at the time said to have gone unnoticed. The team provides support and training for social services professionals, the inquiry was told.

There were 96 risk assessments made in 2018 and by last year statistics showed 69 children being looked after who were at risk, 61 girls and eight boys.

By March this year there were said to be 161 in care with concerns of exploitation and two police investigations under way.


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