Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

PM backs Commissioner over report

More than 2,000 children are being sexually exploited by gangs each year, says a report by the Children's Commissioner's Office
More than 2,000 children are being sexually exploited by gangs each year, says a report by the Children's Commissioner's Office

David Cameron has insisted the Children's Commissioner has his full support after Government sources reportedly described a report into the sexual exploitation of youngsters as "hysterical".

The interim report by Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz found 2,409 youngsters were the victims of gangs intent on carrying out sexual abuse, while another 16,500 children remained at "high risk".

There had been fears the Government was trying to undermine the findings after several reports quoted a Government source calling the report as "hysterical", "highly emotional" and "half-baked".

But the Prime Minister insisted the Children's Commissioner Dr Maggie Atkinson must be allowed to produce the final version of the report, as he described the initial findings "extremely disturbing".

Mr Cameron told MPs: "This is a very serious issue that is being examined. It is an interim report that has been produced which we need to study very carefully.

"It has some extremely disturbing findings. We need to give every encouragement to the Children's Commissioner to ensure the final version of the report is produced."

His comments came after a question from Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, who said many victims could be put off coming forward as a result of such comments.

In a question to the Prime Minister, he said: "I am sure you agree with me that a Government spokesman describing the (Deputy) Children's Commissioner's report into child abuse today as hysterical is extremely unhelpful.

"Victims of abuse already find it difficult to come forward, including those who were abused by Cyril Smith in Rochdale."

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the spokesman's criticism of the report as "idiotic and absurd". He said: "This is obviously a serious and credible report that needs to be taken seriously and taken seriously by the Government."

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