Child sexual exploitation is happening in a “number of towns” in different parts of the country, according to the author of a damning report into abuse in Rotherham.
Professor Alexis Jay led the inquiry that found at least 1,400 children in the South Yorkshire town were sexually exploited by criminal gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013.
She told the BBC there was no “national intelligence-gathering system” for dealing with such crimes, adding: “We cannot say that Rotherham is any better or worse than other places because the information simply doesn’t exist on a national level to tell us that.”
According to an estimate from the Children’s Commissioner for England three years ago, 2,409 children were identified as victims of exploitation by gangs over a 14-month period from 2010-11, while at least 16,500 were said to be at high risk over the course of a year.
It said “shocking” abuse was happening “up and down the country”, but did not single out towns and cities in its study.
High-profile cases in recent years have included:
The NSPCC said there had been a “systematic failure” by Oxfordshire County Council to stop a grooming gang that plied girls, some as young as 11, with alcohol and drugs. The men beat and raped the girls, and sold them for sex. A court heard the men had acted “under the noses” of the authorities who showed “almost wilful blindness”.
Seven men were sentenced to a total of 95 years in June 2013, for offences including rape, facilitating child prostitution and trafficking.
Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said a new operation combining the police, social workers and NHS staff had since been “hugely effective” in preventing abuse and bringing forward prosecutions.
Nine men were convicted over three trials of systematically grooming and sexually abusing teenage girls in 2010.
Many of the victims were given alcohol or drugs before being forced to have sex in cars, rented houses or hotels across the Midlands.
CCTV captured men driving around Derby, stopping girls on the street.
A serious case review found agencies had “missed opportunities” to help the victims.
Speaking in 2011 after the jailing of two of the men, former Home Secretary Jack Straw suggested some men of Pakistani origin saw white girls as “easy meat”. The judge in the case said the race of the victims and their abusers was “coincidental”.
A review in December found there had been a “shocking” inability to protect seven vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation.
The serious case review said police and social workers failed the girls who were “passed around for sex” by a gang of men.
The review painted a “shocking picture of the inability of these agencies to protect these young people successfully”, the safeguarding board said.
In May 2012, nine men were given sentences ranging from four to 19 years after being found guilty of offences including rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child.
The men, from Rochdale and Oldham, were found to have exploited girls as young as 13.
Seven men were jailed after a series of court cases related to a child prostitution ring. The charges included rape, trafficking and prostitution, sometimes involving girls as young as 13.
West Mercia Police said more than 100 young girls could have been specifically targeted by the group between 2007 and 2009.
A gang of five males was jailed in February after being found guilty of raping and sexually assaulting five vulnerable girls.
The men and youths were of Czech and Slovak Roma and Kurdish backgrounds.
The case came to light when a girl was taken into care and began to tell her social worker what had been happening to her, the court heard.
After the trial the Crown Prosecution Service said it was one of the “worst cases” of child sex abuse it had seen.
The NSPCC said child sexual exploitation was not “unique to any particular area”.
The charity’s strategy director, Lisa Harker, said some progress had been made following recent cases.
She added: “Obviously people are now well aware of this type of crime and the way in which it is handled by police has changed.
“Whereas before the girls were often treated as being ‘difficult’ and bringing problems on themselves they are now, quite rightly, seen as victims who need protection and support.”