Sexual predators and extremists 'continue to exploit vulnerable people'

RECOGNISING common factors in the way children are groomed for exploitation and people of all ages are radicalised is the key to early intervention.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 12th October 2016, 9:02 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:44 pm
The conference will look at common factors between child sexual exploitation and radicalisation.
The conference will look at common factors between child sexual exploitation and radicalisation.

That’s the message that is being shared with hundreds of public services professionals today as they come together in Leeds for a safeguarding conference.

Exploiting – Exploited: Grooming and Radicalisation will use real life examples to look at how organisations across Yorkshire can better protect people who are vulnerable to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and radicalisation.

The event, jointly organised by the police and NHS, links in with the national Prevent strategy to stop people becoming involved in terrorism.

Detective Superintendent Nik Adams, who co-ordinates this area of work for the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “Sexual predators and extremists continue to exploit vulnerable people to further their own objectives. The techniques used to groom individuals for child sexual exploitation (CSE) may also be used to radicalise individuals, including in the online space.

“Recognising common factors across these cases is key for all professionals if we are to intervene early and offer the right support to those affected.”

Delegates will be shown the latest film from the Prevent Tragedies campaign, which shows the impact on families left behind after a loved one has travelled to a conflict zone such as Syria.

They will also hear from guest speakers including Andrew Penhale, of Yorkshire and Humberside Crown Prosecution Service, and Alex Krasodomski, from the Centre for Social Media Analysis.

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, has welcomed the event.

Chris Stoddart, NHS England’s Prevent co-ordinator for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Safeguarding is one of our key priorities and we have staff members across the region working hard to raise awareness of and share information about CSE and radicalisation.

“We are really looking forward to this event and feel it will be a great opportunity to share ideas and take away incredibly valuable learning on challenging issues.”

Real-life cases will be studied during the conference as delegates explore the triggers for exploitation and the best methods for early intervention.

The event will also look at the issue of mental health in cases of self-radicalisation, the methods used by offenders to target individuals and the role of technology within the grooming process.

West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, has welcomed the event.

Det Supt Adams said: “Alongside our partners we have a responsibility to protect people from grooming and radicalisation wherever possible. Increasing awareness of the techniques and triggers which may influence this process is a vital part of reducing the reach of predators and extremists and understanding who may be targeted.

“Safeguarding is integral to the delivery of Prevent policing in the North East region.

“Our primary aim is to protect the vulnerable and to prevent them from being drawn into activity which may place them in danger, or encourage them to commit offences.”

Today’s event has been welcomed by West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner.

Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation and radicalisation are key priorities for everyone and we all have a responsibility to safeguard our communities.

“A whole host of factors can potentially make an individual more vulnerable to CSE and radicalisation. It is crucial that we work together across the community to identify those at risk and put in prevention measures before anyone comes to harm.

“This event was the latest step in ensuring a truly joined up partnership approach to tackling these priorities both across the region and locally in our communities.”