Belfast Telegraph

Children as young as 10 being groomed in Northern Ireland

By Amanda Poole

Vulnerable children as young as 10 in Northern Ireland are being sexually exploited in the same way as the girls in the notorious Rochdale grooming case, a leading charity has said.

Last week nine men who ran a child sexual exploitation ring in the Lancashire town were jailed for plying youngsters as young as 13 with drink and drugs, so they could “pass them around” for sex.

Judge Gerald Clifton said the men treated the girls “as though they were worthless and beyond respect”.

Jacqui Montgomery-Devlin, manager of Barnardo’s Safe Choices, told the Belfast Telegraph sexual exploitation is happening in “every town and city across Northern Ireland”.

She explained most of the girls she deals with are aged between 12 and 16 — with the youngest so far being just 10 years old.

“Party houses are dominant scenes for sexually exploited girls,” Ms Montgomery-Devlin said.

“They are invited to houses, given drugs and alcohol, and then return home or to care homes intoxicated or under the influence of substances.

“Sometimes they ring and don’t know where they are. They often ask for the morning after pill.”

Ms Montgomery-Devlin said “fear is a huge factor” for the children being exploited.

She added: “One girl said: ‘If I don’t go back they will only rape me anyway, so I might as well go’.

“They are threatened with being killed. Whether the men would go through with this is irrelevant. The young person believes it.”

Late last year research from Barnardo’s revealed two-thirds of girls in care homes here are at risk of being sexually exploited.

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised, Barnardo’s Safe Choices can be contacted on 028 9065 8511.

Background

Last week nine men from Rochdale received jail sentences of between four and 19 years for luring girls as young as 13 into sex. The trial, at Liverpool Crown Court, heard that five girls — aged between 13 and 15 — were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex, but there were also times when violence was used.

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