NI child sex abuse inquiry established
Total of 22 suspected victims, aged between 13 and 18, identified
Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots proposed an independent expert-led inquiry. Photograph: PA
An independent inquiry is to be held into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
A total of 22 suspected victims, aged between 13 and 18 years old, have been identified and more than 30 people arrested as part of a police investigation into potential organised crime.
Most targeted lived in residential care homes but the allegations relate to periods when they were not in the facilities, such as on nights out when they failed to return.
A team of 12 detectives is working on a police investigation alongside social workers. The police and health authorities have been criticised for failing to act earlier on a report by the charity Barnardo’s which flagged up child exploitation as a major problem for Northern Ireland in 2011.
Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots and Stormont justice minister David Ford have proposed a further independent expert-led inquiry with support from criminal justice, health and education regulators.
The proposed remit includes examining the nature and extent of child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland. It will consider the effectiveness of measures to secure the safety and wellbeing of children in care, including those at risk of exploitation.
“Judging from the public reaction to this issue I know that many...share with me a sense of disbelief and horror that this is happening in our society,” Mr Poots said. “People are also asking, and rightly so, valid questions about whether everything that can be done is being done, to prevent, tackle and disrupt the sexual exploitation of children and young people.”