In a groundbreaking move, Birmingham City Council has used civil proceedings to secure injunctions banning six men suspected of child sexual exploitation from having contact with girls under 18.
The council sought the injunctions with support from West Midlands Police over its concerns about inappropriate contact between the men and a vulnerable 17-year-old girl.
“Although there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction at present, we do have enough information to obtain injunctions – these use a lower evidence threshold and the balance of probability,” said Peter Hay, director of people at Birmingham Council.
“We have to recognise that previous ways of dealing with this have not always worked. Too often the victim has not seen herself as a victim so it has been difficult to use the conventional criminal prosecution route.”
Of the alleged victim, Hay said: “We strongly believe that she is being consistently sexually exploited and has been since her early teenage years. Every time she goes missing a police investigation is launched. She has been found in hotel rooms with men in states of undress and in a state of intoxication, despite lack of funds.
“Despite many attempts to work with her to understand the risks she was placing herself in, she continued to have contact with these men. She is now safe, in secure accommodation for her own protection.”
The case, heard in the High Court in London, relied on a centuries-old law designed to protect children from abuse that had fallen out of use since the introduction of the Children Act 1989.
Detective chief superintendent Danny Long, head of West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “These injunctions are not an easy fix. They are given by the highest court which has been presented with complex dossiers of information, with months of police and council work sitting behind them.
“The injunctions are incredibly restricting. They do not allow any contact, in any form, with any girl under 18 years of age, who they can’t prove they know. The onus of proof is on them. If they are found in the company of a vulnerable child by police or children’s services an application will be made to immediately send them to prison.”
Details and photographs of the men have been shared with social workers and police officers in the West Midlands to support the policing of the injunctions.
Birmingham Council is already working on seeking similar injunctions in other cases.
Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s programmes tackling sexual abuse, said the move is welcome step in the fight against child sexual exploitation.
“We know that many victims do not realise they have been groomed by calculating offenders who are simply targeting them for sex and sometimes to ‘sell them on’ to other abusers,” he said.
“This is a brave step that may prove to be controversial but any measured effort to stop the foul activities of those seeking to exploit vulnerable children is to be welcomed.”