Austin Macauley 20 November 2014

Council uses ‘innovative legal approach’ to protect vulnerable woman

Birmingham City Council has secured injunctions against a number of men in what it described as a ‘ground-breaking approach’ to protect vulnerable people.

They were obtained in relation to a young woman known to social services for a number of years and who has gone missing more than 100 times in the last four years. ‘We strongly believe that she is being consistently sexually exploited and has been since her early teenage years,’ said Peter Hay, the council’s director of people. ‘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.’

He added that ‘too often the victim has not seen herself as a victim so it has been difficult to use the conventional criminal prosecution route’.

Birmingham is believed to be the first council in the country to use injunctions in this way and Mr Hay hopes others will follow suit.

‘The legislation we are using was historically used to protect children before the introduction of the Children Act 1989, which gave a statutory basis for most child protection needs, so has rarely been used since. This is about making children safer; we are already starting work on our next set of proceedings and I would fully expect to see other local authorities following our lead.’

Dt Chief Supt Danny Long, head of public protection unit at West Midlands Police, said: ‘This is an innovative legal approach – the use of an existing power to tackle an evolving crime.

‘The injunctions give us the power to help to protect young people without putting them at the heart of a judicial process.’

He added they were ‘not a soft or easy option’ and enabled police to focus on the abusers.

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