City Council uses injunctive proceedings to its advantage in child sexual exploitation case.

04 Dec

An innovative approach has been taken by a local authority to tackle a situation in which a group of men were considered to be 'inappropriately' in the company of a girl aged 17 years old. 

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An innovative approach has been taken by a local authority to tackle a situation in which a group of men were considered to be 'inappropriately' in the company of a girl aged 17 years old. 

The girl concerned was in the care of Birmingham City Council and had been reported missing from care 102 times since July 2010.  She was considered to be vulnerable by the Council and concerns were present surrounding possible sexual exploitation.  The girl continued to have contact with the men despite attempts to intervene. 

Concerns regarding the girl's welfare were raised by social workers at Birmingham City Council and the police, leading to the local authority issuing civil proceedings against ten men in the Family Division of the High Court.  Mr Justice Keenan granted injunctions against a number of men on 19 November 2014  preventing them from approaching the girl until she reaches majority and indeed any female under 18 years of age with whom they are not personally associated.  Injunctions had been made against two other men on Monday 17 November 2014 and another man previously.

Legal argument had taken place regarding whether or not those men made subject to final injunctions should be identified.  Ultimately Mr Justice Keenan ruled that the media should be allowed to identify them.  Indeed they have been so identified.

The case, thought to be the first time a local authority has used civil injunctions to block sexual exploitation, is certainly an interesting one.  It is often difficult for local authorities to gather evidence sufficient to satisfy the criminal burden of proof of beyond reasonable doubt.  Proceedings such as these demand a lower civil standard with the Court only needing to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities. 

It is often difficult to protect victims in circumstances whereby they are being groomed by the perpetrator and no doubt this case will offer a glimmer of hope to councils in similar situations. It is understood that Birmingham City Council intends to proceed with further proceedings in similar circumstances.

If you want to read media reports on the case the following articles on the Guardian website and BBC News may be of interest to you:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/nov/17/birmingham-council-seeks-protect-vulnerable-children-strikingly-novel-legal-action

http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/nov/19/local-authority-using-law-protect-girls-exploitation-birmingham

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-30114936

Let us know what you think!

Leanne Buckley-Thomson

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