The case of a 14-year-old girl from Manchester who was forced into prostitution has sparked calls for a UK-wide network of emergency accommodation for young runaways.
The teenager was targeted after being seen wandering the streets before she was made to have sex with a series of men, Greater Manchester Police said.
Details of the case can be reported after nine men were jailed in connection with the case. Convictions included sexual activity with a child, controlling a child prostitute, facilitating child prostitution and paying for sexual services with a child.
Terina Keene, chief executive of young runaways’ charity Railway Children, said: “We urge this government to put in place a UK-wide safety net to protect vulnerable children at risk from violence, drugs, sexual exploitation and sleeping rough on the streets.
“The network should include everything from universal and targeted work to prevent children running away in the first place, a 24-hour crisis helpline, a UK-wide network of emergency accommodation, to the provision of follow-up support to help reduce the chances of children running away again.”
The child went missing from her home in Rochdale on two occasions in February 2008. The second time she was missing for 11 days and turned up in Rusholme, Manchester. When officers spoke to her she told them she had been sexually exploited by a number of men while she was missing.
Superintendent Paul Savill of Greater Manchester Police said: “This child has been through an absolutely horrifying ordeal at the hands of these men. The level of abuse she has suffered is almost beyond belief. She has been treated like a commodity; beaten, threatened and sexually exploited.
“I commend this young girl for her bravery in supporting this case. Even after her ordeal she was able to revisit the sites where she was abused and testify against her abusers in court. This is not easy and can often be the main obstacle we face when trying to bring prosecutions in cases of child sexual exploitation.”