More than 550 suspected child predators arrested by grooming gang task force

A specialist grooming gang unit helped arrest more than 550 suspected child predators in its first 12 months, the Home Office has claimed.

The Grooming Gang Task Force has also helped protect more than 4,000 victims of sexual exploitation since it was established by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in April 2023.

The unit is made up of experts and specialist officers who have worked with all 43 police forces in England and Wales to support investigations into the sexual exploitation and manipulation of children.

Home Secretary James Cleverly, who visited Essex Police headquarters on Monday to speak to police sexual exploitation teams, said: “When a child is a victim of abuse, we must do everything in our power to protect him and pursue the perpetrators until they are behind them. bars.

“This despicable crime can have a lasting impact on a child’s life and I am pleased that in just one year, the hard work of the task force and the efforts of local police have led to more than 550 arrests and helped to ensure the safety of thousands more children. I thank everyone who participated in this effort.

“But we know we need to do more. Through our Criminal Justice Bill, we are better protecting children by requiring all professionals to report to the police when they fear abuse and banning sex offenders from changing their names to escape justice.

Led by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and supported by the National Crime Agency, the task force is a full-time operational policing unit funded by the Home Office to improve the way police investigate crime gangs. grooming and identifies and protects children from abuse.

Its staff is comprised of experienced and qualified agents and data analysts who have extensive practical field experience conducting grooming gang investigations.

More than 400 police officers across the country have now been specially trained by the taskforce, with more expected to be mobilized over the coming months to root out child sex offenders.

We can always do more. What we need to do is ensure children have safe spaces where they can receive the support they need. They’ve all been through some really horrible things.

Mark Russell, Children’s Society

Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, told the PA news agency on Monday: “It’s really important to have the Home Secretary here.

“We can always do more. What we need to do is ensure children have safe spaces where they can receive the support they need. They have all experienced truly horrible things.

“Organizations like the Children’s Society have worked with the police to provide safe spaces which then allow children to provide evidence that the police can use in the court process.

“(There is) collaboration between charities like us, the police, the Home Office and other sector organisations.

“Our job is to be a critical friend to the police and the Home Office and to say that we must put the voices and experiences of children at the center and ensure that every police force and every officer is able to caring for a child who has experienced terrible things in the most appropriate way.

Gabrielle Shaw, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), added: “At Napac we are proud of the work we and other third sector colleagues have done to mainstream voices and the experiences of victims and survivors in the Grooming Gangs (CSE) Task Force.

“By listening to this situation and acting accordingly, the National Police will create authentic and practical change that will improve the engagement of victims and survivors in the justice system.

“The work of the CST working group draws on Napac’s unique body of research into what victims and survivors themselves want. This research shows that for a large proportion of survivors, a positive outcome does not necessarily equate to a criminal conviction. Many want to feel heard and believed, to stand up and be counted without entering the legal process and without fear of being judged or re-traumatized.

“We hope that police forces across the country will continue their positive work with partners, such as third sector organisations, to successfully understand and achieve the outcomes victims and survivors want. »