POLICE in Cumbria raised concerns that some officers viewed victims of alleged child exploitation as ‘willing participants’, a secret intelligence report has revealed.
A report looking how CSE was policed in the county found that in some instances officers thought victims were not being coerced into abusive relationships and readily accepted alcohol offered to them.
The so-called problem profile was produced by Cumbria Police in 2015 on the orders of the then-chief constable.
The report was released under freedom of information laws.
The force said ‘significant’ changes in how it protects children from exploitation had been made since 2015 – including moving away from ‘victim blaming’ language.
The report provided an in-depth look at sexual exploitation in the county and how police were responding to it.
Looking at the recording of CSE crimes, it raised concerns of how officers viewed a case involving two girls possibly being sexually exploited.
“These two offences were not tagged as CSE on the crime record… CSE Screening Tools were completed within the Safeguarding Hub which raised concerns and identified several CSE risk indicators in both individuals, and appropriate action was taken in relation to this,” it said.
It said police took no action due to insufficient evidence and not being in the public interest, but ‘of concern is some of the narrative used’ by officers around the decision.
The report added: “It suggests that there is ‘no evidence of force, grooming, breach of trust or exploitation used by the suspects – the complainants accept they drank the alcohol on offer’.
“It goes on to state that the suspects are of good character and with the complainants being nearly 16 the ‘disparity in age is minimal’.
“The fact that the complainants were unwilling to make complaints and were pressured in to doing so by family lends further support to the decision.
“The tone of the narrative suggests that the girls were viewed as willing participants in the events and have not been exploited.”
DCI James Yallop said a number of improvement had been made in policing CSE by using a multi-agency approach and focusing on prevention.
He suggested victim-blaming language was used by professionals discussing CSE ‘naively’.
“I’m confident as a partnership we’ve made huge improvement right across the board in the years since,” he said.
Cumbria Police ran a year-long campaign to raise awareness of the signs of CSE. DCI Yallop encouraged people to report any possible CSE offences.
Call police on 101.