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Barnardo’s warns of Britain’s secret trade in child sex

Posted by smeddum on November 19, 2009

Nico Hines
Nov 18 2009

A secret network of organised child sex traffickers is operating within Britain, according to the charity Barnardo’s.

Approximately one in six of the sexually exploited children currently being helped by the organisation say they have been moved between cities and passed around between paedophiles.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, warned of a “hidden” problem in which vulnerable youngsters, many of whom have run away from home, are shunted around the country to increase their isolation.

“Through our work with children abused through prostitution, it became apparent that some young people were being moved around the UK, or from town to town, by abusing adults who would use the children for the purpose of sexual exploitation,” he said.

“An apparently kind man will buy them food, will buy them drink and give then a mobile phone, and then a few months later they will be isolated and alone, sometimes in a different town and sleeping with that man and his friends.”

No national records are kept on the number of children exploited in this way. Barnardo’s is calling for police and authorities across the UK to develop a greater awareness of the problem.

The charity said it was currently working with 609 sexually exploited children and young people, 90 of whom appeared to have been trafficked within the UK.

One of the victims of this trade, Imogen, ran away from her care home at the age of 12 with an older man she thought was her boyfriend.

She was groomed by a man who treated her well – giving her a mobile phone and the keys to a flat to use – before he began to abuse her.

“He was much older, he was protective – I felt looked after, wanted, loved even. He gave me everything I wanted,” she said, but soon she was being driven to “parties” around Britain where she was told to have sex with his friends.

“I didn’t have any choice – I felt so guilty. Eventually, he’d take me all over the country: Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, London. He’d take me to hotels, some nights two or three.

“I never saw any money change hands. Some men asked ‘How old is she?’ Some asked ‘Have you got any younger?’ They were really sick.”

The man was arrested and eventually Imogen went back to school and then on to university.

“It’s really hard to talk about girls being trafficked in this country; no one wants to believe it,” she said.

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