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1700 Scottish children abused in a year

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1700 Scottish children abused in a year

Post  Guest on Tue 17 Aug - 12:00

1700 Scottish children abused in a year

25 Jul 2010

At least 30 children every week fall victim to sex offenders in Scotland – equivalent to one whole primary school class every seven days, police have revealed.

More than 1,700 vulnerable youngsters were reported as victims last year, but thousands more will have suffered in silence with no record of the atrocities against them.

Courts are convicting an average of one paedophile every working day, but experts warn that still more must be done to clamp down on the adults who prey on Scotland’s children.

In the face of these damning statistics, Scotland is now undergoing a sea change in the way it approaches child sex crime. Efforts in the years ahead will focus on pre-emptive interventions to catch would-be criminals before they strike and cause untold misery for society’s most vulnerable.

In an audacious scheme that is the first of its kind north of the border, men are being asked to come forward and talk to therapists if they think they may have a problem – and charity leaders are openly targeting Old Firm football fans as a trial audience.

Freedom of Information requests by the Sunday Herald have uncovered for the first time the true scale of reported paedophilia in Scotland, but the numbers – which cover only those cases recorded by the police – will barely scratch the surface of the twisted world of sex offending.

Comprehensive statistics released by forces across Scotland show that the vast majority of abused children are female, and more than one quarter aged under 10.

In one particularly sickening detail the files show that in cases where a report is made to the procurator fiscal, four in five young victims know their abusers.

A total of 1486 child sex victims were recorded in 2009, with three smaller forces – Northern Constabulary, Dumfries & Galloway and Central Scotland Police – unable to provide full details. These forces together account for just under 15% of the Scottish total, so with offending rates roughly constant across the country the actual figure will be closer to 1750.

Phillip Noyes, director of public policy at children’s charity the NSPCC, branded the findings “shocking”. “It is a grim picture, and these figures only show offences which are reported to the police. We know the true extent of the problem is far worse,” he said.

The Scottish Government said it could not tolerate any level of sex offending, saying: “We condemn all attacks on children, and we have taken action to make sure young people are better protected than ever.”

A total of 276 convictions were recorded for offences against children in the financial year 2008-09, the last period for which data is available, and 337 cases were proceeded against.

Many of these offenders will have targeted several children, making it impossible to compare the number of offences and the conviction rate. Andrew Byrne, a former Glasgow University student sentenced on Wednesday to six years behind bars, sexually assaulted 19 girls and boys across the UK before he was finally caught last year.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, who oversees child protection for Acpos, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said some young victims were simply too traumatised to come forward.

Children’s immaturity makes them vulnerable to threats, he said, and offenders often terrify them with claims that they’ll be taken away from their parents if they tell tales.

“Then you’ve got other offences where the children are of such a young age that they’re still babies in effect,” he said. “Clearly, it’s very difficult to establish evidence in that regard.”

The figures include a small number of historical crimes which have come to light years after the atrocity was committed, just as some victims hurt last year will take time to come forward with their accounts. In addition, the authorities surveyed said some cases may have slipped through the net in their Freedom of Information responses due to discrepancies in how data is recorded.

The vast scale of the problem has prompted a rethinking of how Scotland tackles paedophiles, and agencies are backing a more robust and proactive approach than in years gone by, hunting would-be offenders under the auspices of the national scheme Operation Alba, and targeting them as soon as they surface.

Detective Inspector Keith McDevitt, who heads the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency’s e-crime unit, said the message to would-be offenders was simple: “We’re out there, and we’ll get them; it’s really just a matter of time.”


“These shocking figures show just how many children are still being sexually abused every day. It is a grim picture and these figures only show offences which are reported to the police. We know the true extent of the problem is far worse.”

Phillip Noyes, NSPCC
“I think the prevalence of sexual abuse in our society is grossly underestimated ... but we believe fundamentally that many sexual abuses against children can be prevented.”

Martin Henry, Stop It Now Scotland

“We will make sure that those who are involved in this type of crime know that we are out there, and we are leading the online investigation. We’ll be out there and we’ll get them; it’s just a matter of time.”

DI Keith McDevitt, Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency
“It’s not about being nice to paedophiles, it’s about decreasing the risk they pose to other people, and by giving help and support you can actually decrease the number of people who are abused, which is our main aim.”

Dr Rajan Darjee, NHS Lothian

"If you feel there’s something wrong, then tell us about it. If it turns out to be nothing, there’s no harm done. But we do try to encourage children to trust their instincts; if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.”

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre

“We condemn all attacks on children, and we have taken action to make sure young people are better protected than ever. We know that a significant proportion of sexual offences against children are committed by people they know.”

Scottish Government

The paedophile’s best friend...technology

Even as Scotland makes progress in fighting child abuse, new fronts are opened up daily by the march of technology.

Police are now bracing themselves for a new phenomenon they fear will make online offenders untraceable – the disposable mobile phone.

DI Keith McDevitt, head of e-crime at the Scottish Crime Drug Enforcement Agency, says: “If you can buy a device without registering it, and that device can connect to the internet, criminals will exploit those opportunities.”

Police are also worried about the high level of unsecured wi-fi in homes across Scotland. Officers on Operation Algebra, a major case that recently saw a ring of the worst offenders jailed, nearly came to a halt when they found offenders surfing on other people’s networks undetected from laptops.

“When you come across an unsecured wi-fi, it stops: the trail has just died,” McDevitt says.

Such simple but crucial points are at the centre of Operation Alba, Scotland’s multi-agency framework for tackling child sex crime. Though he doesn’t want the tactics laid bare, Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Acpos say it’s more “proactive” than ever before, weaving education, technology, enforcement and bold new academic approaches to great effect.


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