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Friday, 17 November 2017

Police investigating Roma child prostitution claims in Glasgow's southside

Written by Lucinda Cameron and Graeme Murray

Police are to investigate claims that children as young as 12 are routinely being sold for sex in one of Scotland's most deprived areas.

Locals in the Govanhill area of Glasgow told The Times newspaper of being offered Roma children for sex or being approached outside bars by youngsters themselves.

The paper said that in September 2015 Crosshill and Govanhill Community Council recorded in minutes that an "issue had been raised regarding child prostitution within Govanhill" and children were seen to be wandering the streets at night.

Police said they have "no information or intelligence to substantiate the concerns" but that they will carry out a full investigation into the claims.

Residents of Govanhill - which has the highest Roma population in Scotland - said more needed to be done to tackle the problem.

Olive Arens, chief executive of Up-2-Us, a charity that works with vulnerable teenagers, told The Times: "The sexual exploitation of Roma children in Govanhill is a long-standing issue and has been for 10 years or more.

"You can see the activity. It is children and adults making deals in huddles. It is very clear what was taking place but nothing ever happened to stop it."

Chief superintendent Brian McInulty, Police Scotland's area commander for Glasgow, said Glasgow Child Protection Committee, with numerous statutory and voluntary agencies, has "robust child protection procedures" in place.

He said: "Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a constant threat in all our communities and an area that all our partners are alive to.

"Any suggestion that any of the agencies who are charged with protecting children in Glasgow would not take that responsibility seriously is simply not true.

"That said, we will never be complacent when it comes to the safety of children and whilst we have no information or intelligence to substantiate the concerns described in the article, we will carry out a full investigation into the claims.

"That will involve us interviewing each of the persons named in the article in order to understand if and why there is a perception of child sexual exploitation in the Govanhill area.

"Our local policing teams work with various partners in Govanhill area and are doing some remarkable work in the local area.

"We have campus officers working within local schools and we work on a daily basis with various partners in the Govanhill hub.

"In that regard, I would ask anyone with any information concerning the safety of any child in Glasgow to contact the police or social work department and the matter will be thoroughly investigated along with partners.

"All such investigations are dealt with sensitively and involve a full multi-agency response, and a full safety plan is put in place for any victims identified."

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur said the claims such activity is happening are "sickening" and has called for an emergency statement to Holyrood.

The Scottish Conservatives said an independent inquiry examining the allegations should be held.

Glasgow MSP Annie Wells described the reports as "shocking and heart-breaking".

Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker called for a full and transparent inquiry into investigating the reports.

She said: "We have a duty to protect each and every one of those children, and should not waste any time in finding out what is actually happening in the streets of our largest city."

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "We are fully alert to the risk of child sexual exploitation in Glasgow.

"This is a form of abuse that can take place in all parts of the city and be found within all communities, regardless of ethnicity.

"This issue is being treated with the utmost seriousness at the highest level within the council.

"When information on alleged incidents of child sexual exploitation is provided to us, we will always act on that information.

"The protection of vulnerable children is at the absolute core of the work we do and racial sensitivities have never been an impediment to how we deal with child sexual exploitation.

"The incidents highlighted today have been looked at by staff and we are not aware of these ever being reported to our support services.

"If people have information about instances of child sexual exploitation then they should report their concerns to police or a social worker."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "These are deeply concerning claims and anyone with evidence of suspected crimes should be encouraged to contact the police in the first instance.

"Keeping children safe from abuse and exploitation is a key priority for the Scottish Government and we fully support the work of social services and Police Scotland to identify children at risk of harm and tackle those who prey on them.

"New powers to tackle human trafficking and exploitation in Scotland came into effect earlier this year. Scotland's agencies work tirelessly to tackle all forms of child sexual abuse and it is important that perpetrators know that exploitation in any form will never be tolerated in Scotland.

"Everyone has a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable in society including through reporting signs of child exploitation and abuse so it can be stopped."

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