City moves against grooming gangs
A judge says he hopes more local authorities will use civil courts to target men who sexually exploit vulnerable girls in the wake of "bold and novel" legal moves by a city.
Mr Justice Keehan recently concluded that 10 men from the Birmingham area sexually exploited a 17-year-old girl in Birmingham City Council's care, after analysing evidence at hearings in the Family Division of the High Court in Birmingham and London.
He imposed injunctions barring the men from contacting the teenager and from approaching girls they did not know, following applications from council bosses, and ruled that they could be identified in media reports.
The men could be jailed for being in contempt of court if found to have breached the orders.
The judge also says, in a written ruling on the litigation, that he hopes anyone who sexually exploits children has been given a "powerful message".
"Police came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence at that time to secure criminal convictions against the 10 individuals," said Mr Justice Keehan in his ruling, which has just been published.
"Accordingly the local authority decided to take a bold and novel step, namely, to apply for civil injunctions under the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court."
He said West Midlands Police worked in close co-operation with the council and added: "I wish to praise ... the degree of close and effective co-operation between the police and the local authority.
"It has been a model of its type and has played a crucial role in bringing these proceedings to a successful conclusion.
"I hope that the approach I have taken in this case and the orders I have made will send a powerful message to those who engage in the child sexual exploitation of young females or are considering doing so.
"I very much hope that the stance taken by Birmingham City Council, in close co-operation with the West Midlands Police, will be considered and followed by other local authorities in cases of child sexual exploitation."
Mr Justice Keehan said the orders he had made would protect the 17-year-old girl and other "vulnerable young females".
"I am satisfied that each of these (men) sexually exploited (the 17-year-old girl)," said the judge.
"I am satisfied that it is fair, proportionate and necessary to make the injunctive orders sought by the local authority against each (man)."
He added: "I wish to commend Birmingham City Council for the bold and innovative approach it has taken in this case.
"All too often in such cases the only action taken by the authorities, where there is insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution, is in respect of the victim. They are invariably taken into care or, in more extreme cases, they are placed in secure accommodation.
"Whilst that action is taken in the best interests and to protect the young victim, it strikes me as wrong and unfair that no action is taken against the perpetrators of child sexual exploitation."
Mr Justice Keehan said for a "considerable time" the 17-year-old girl had not considered herself a victim.
"It is, sadly, so common for victims of child sexual exploitation not to recognise or accept that they are victims," the judge added.
"All too often they have suffered abusive and neglected childhoods and are attracted to and flattered by the men who seek them out.
"They are seduced by the attention given to them whether by way of compliments, gifts, drugs or alcohol."
He said the "worrying and widespread prevalence" of child sexual exploitation had been referred to in a number of recent reports, including a report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and a report by Ann Coffey, Labour MP for Stockport, into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester.