Wednesday 17 April 2024
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Nottinghamshire detective’s warning to parents about dangers of child exploitation

A detective who works to protect young people from exploitation has spoken of her passion for the role and advised parents of some of the key warning signs to help keep their children safe.

Detective Constable Hannah Reddington is part of Nottinghamshire Police’s Children at Risk of Exploitation (CARE) team based at Oxlcose Lane Police Station.

Her work – and that of her colleagues – often goes unseen but it is a vital part of the force’s work to protect children from sexual and criminal exploitation by adults.

She explained:

“Children can be criminally exploited, and they can be sexually exploited by adults. That abuse takes different forms but ultimately it comes down to children being groomed with gifts and attention in return for sexual activity or for carrying out criminal acts like carrying drugs.

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“That abuse can take place in person, or it can be entirely on-line, and the impact on young and vulnerable victims can be devastating.

“It’s important to stress to parents that any child from any background can become a victim of this kind of abuse, but in my experience, teenage girls are particularly vulnerable to this kind of grooming.

“As a police officer and as a parent myself its makes me upset and angry that adults are preying on children in this way, and that’s what really motivates me to do this work.

“Me and the officers I work with come to work every day to stop that abuse from happening, protect the victims and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Officers work to protect both girls and boys from criminal sexual exploitation and believe that offences against boys have been – and still are – under reported.

Similarly, it is thought that criminal exploitation offences against girls are also being underreported across the country.

Unlike other criminal offences, however, victims of childhood exploitation are often reluctant to come forward – either from embarrassment, fear, a lack of trust or a genuine belief that they are in a ‘normal relationship’ with a perpetrator.

This is all part of the grooming process and the reality is they are being abused and in some cases raped by adults.

Other victims may previously have been in trouble with the police and therefore have a very negative opinion of officers. Regardless, the priority of police officers is to ensure they are treated as children first and foremost.

For Detective Constable Reddington and her colleagues, earning the trust of victims is an integral part of her work.

“I really enjoy that challenge,” she added, “of building that rapport with them; of earning their trust and getting them to question the contact they are having with that adult.

“Although it can often be challenging to get prosecutions over the line, our main priority is always to protect victims and to stop that abuse from happening.

“So, when cases do come to our attention, we will be very proactive. We will arrest and interview suspects and do all we can to put them before the courts. If we can’t do that immediately we will impose strict bail conditions on them to have no further contact with that person or other children and we may also explore other options such as Child Abduction Warning Notices that prevent them from having any contact with or being in the presence of that child.”

“In addition to this we will visit the young people involved and seek to educate them and their parents about the dangers of that relationship. So, whether we get a conviction or not, or it is always satisfying when we are able to break those bonds and bring and end to that abuse.”

Ending that abuse at the earliest possible stage is vital, which is why parents and adults are being warned to look out for some key warning signs.

Detective Constable Reddington added:

“All children are different but some classic warning signs to pay attention to include if a child becomes a different personality, if they become withdrawn or more protective over electronic devices such as mobile phones, or if they have a new phone or money and you can’t explain where it’s come from. These are all warning signs that something is not right. It could be nothing, but it could also be a sign of very serious sexual or criminal exploitation which we need to address.”

Anyone with concerns about the exploitation of children should contact the police. Further information can be viewed here How to report possible child abuse | Nottinghamshire Police.

Young people can also give information anonymously on through the Fearless campaign operated by Crimestoppers.

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