Gangs of child abusers use Facebook and other social networking sites to trawl ‘menus’ of potential victims and plan sickening sex parties, a devastating report warns today.
Naive young people are ‘wandering round’ in the ‘thicket’ of the internet, which plays a central role in grooming and planning abuse.
Sue Berelowitz, deputy children’s commissioner for England, claimed groups of men use ‘menus of girls’ and warned that it was ‘rare’ to find abuse cases where technology such as mobile phones and computers were not in some way connected.
The interim report by the deputy children’s commissioner Sue Berelowitz warned Facebook is used by gangs to arrange ‘sex parties’ where children are abused
This includes encouraging girls to swap sexually explicit images on mobiles, adults grooming children on social networking sites such as Facebook, and the viewing of extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.
Children groomed online are taken to ‘parties’, where they are drugged or plied with alcohol ‘so that they did not know what was happening to them’, the study found.
‘This made it impossible for them to identify the perpetrator
The interim report found that 2,409 children and young people were confirmed victims between August 2010 and October 2011. A further 16,500 children were at ‘high risk’. of sexual exploitation between April 2010 and March 2011.
Ahead of the report’s publication senior government sources branded it ‘hysterical’ and half-baked.
There was particular criticism that the report appeared to play down the significance of Asian men targetting white girls.
But speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron backed Miss Berelowitz.
He told MPs: ‘This is a very serious issue that is being examined. It is an interim report that has been produced which we need to study very carefully. It has some extremely disturbing findings.
‘We need to give every encouragement to the Children’s Commissioner to ensure the final version of the report is produced.’
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also defended the report. He said: ‘There has been some idiotic response from someone within Government, an absurd response. This is obviously a serious and credible report that needs to be taken seriously and taken seriously by the Government.’
According to the interim study, in one abuse network, 2,900 vulnerable children were connected to the main perpetrator who used social networking sites to maintain contact with potential victims.
The report highlighted the case of Becky, not her real name, a 13-year-old White British girl, who was sexually exploited by a group of boys form her school.
When her parents were not at home a group of boys went round for a ‘sex party’ which was advertised on Facebook.
‘Following the incident Becky was coerced into throwing further ‘sex parties’ whenever her house was empty,’ the report said.
Teegan, a White British teenager, revealed ‘a book being available with photographs and ages of all of the girls being sexually exploited by this particular group. Men could choose which girls they wanted’.
Aged 13, she was taken by a Turkish man to a variety of ‘parties’ across England at several smart houses and ‘mansions’.
The report found groups of men aged 14 to 70 trawled Facebook and other social networking to groom vulnerable children and arrange parties where there would be raped.
Miss Berelowitz said: ‘We’ve found people who are perpetrating these terrible crimes against children up to men in their 70s, so sometimes they are organised, and yes, there are different models, so sometimes we have organised groups of Pakistani males in relation to white girls, but that is not the only model.
‘It is desperately important that people wake up to all the evidence. I’ve seen, for example, hard evidence from police. I’ve got a picture in my mind of an enormous piece of paper with photographs on it of victims and offenders in one part of the country. The vast majority of the offenders there were white, so everybody needs to recognise that this is happening in a number of different cases in various communities,’ she told Sky News.
Social networking sites like Facebook have come under growing pressure to act amid claims they are used by perpetrators of child abuse.
Shadow Children’s Minister Lisa Nandy told the Daily Mirror: ‘Companies such as Facebook and other social media should be called before MPs to explain what they are doing to stop this happening.’
A Facebook spokesman said: ‘We have a zero tolerance policy for child exploitative behaviour on the site and such activity is rare.
‘However, when illegal behaviour is detected Facebook works with law enforcement agencies such as CEOP to ensure that these people are brought to justice.’