Belfast Telegraph

Child protection review considered

An independent expert could be appointed to examine child safeguarding practices in Northern Ireland in the wake of a major police investigation into alleged sexual exploitation, Stormont's health minister has said.

Edwin Poots announced the possible appointment of an outside assessor to look at how children in care are protected on the back of the recent revelations about the police abuse probe.

Detectives have said a total of 22 suspected victims, aged 13-18, have been identified and more than 30 people arrested as part of the investigation into potential organised child sexual exploitation in the region.

Most of those targeted lived in residential care homes at the time of incidents but the allegations relate to periods when they were not in the facilities, such as on nights-out when they failed to return.

Mr Poots said tonight: "I recognise this is an issue of significant interest to the public.

"In order to provide assurance and for the public to have the maximum confidence, I am giving consideration to asking an expert from outside Northern Ireland to provide an independent assessment and report to me on the existing practices and procedures which fall under the responsibility of my department.

"A significant amount of work has been carried out in recent years in this area where continuous improvement is constantly being sought. I consider it essential that the public know that everything that can be done is being done on these very challenging issues."

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