A serious case review into the sexual exploitation of nine teenage girls in Somerset has found there were ‘missed opportunities’ for earlier intervention by the council.
A police operation in 2015 led to the imprisonment of two men for rape and sexual assault against six victims aged between 14 and 15 and a seventh who was 18 which occurred between 2010 and 2014.
The Somerset Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB) Learning and Improvement subgroup began to investigate the offences after it was revealed the criteria for such a review was met by two of the victims.
The two children had suffered persistent sexual, physical and emotional abuse. They had also had several pregnancies most of which ended in miscarriage or termination. One resulted in a child.
The SSCB’s serious case review discovered there had been ‘missed opportunities’ for more effective earlier intervention.
It uncovered evidence in the records from 2010 and 2011 that two of the victims, who were 15 at the time, had an older ‘boyfriend’. The parents of one of the children told the SSCB they had raised concerns about this when their child was 13.
The council records also revealed allegations that the premises where the perpetrators worked was a location for men to have sex with under-age girls. ?
The review concluded the council did not intervene earlier partly because of local practice weaknesses at the time, which had been identified in the ‘inadequate’ Ofsted inspection rating in 2013.
The review also warned there were national and regional obstacles to good practice.
It said there was a ‘confused and confusing stance’ in national policy about adolescent sexual activity, which leaves professionals and managers struggling to recognise and distinguish between sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and underage sexual activity. ?