A Toolbox for Professionals


This toolbox is intended to help you explore the vulnerabilities and indicators of risk present in the case of a child or young person that you think might be experiencing or be at risk of sexual exploitation. It includes resources targeted for children and young people, families and professionals. It is intended to help you think about what the risks might be to the child or young person and what to do about the information you have. The toolbox must be used in the context of your organisation’s policy and procedures for child protection and safeguarding and cannot be treated as a substitute for these. Consequently, your use of the toolbox may not be identical to that of colleagues working in other agencies and authorities. However, in collecting and organising your thoughts, observations and relevant information you have it should generate supporting evidence for making assessments and help others understand your thinking.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a specific issue in protection, safeguarding and vulnerability. Best practice in this area of work comprises collaboration within and across disciplines, agencies and teams and requires up-to-date knowledge and understanding of key concepts and legislative frameworks. Your line manager will be able to help you identify your developmental needs in this area along with any appropriate training opportunities.


Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for (a) something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

There are robust legal definitions of the child and slightly more complex ideas about what constitutes a young person[1]. In essence, a child or young person is anyone up to the age of 18. The statutory responsibilities for safeguarding this group are extended to older individuals receiving services on the basis of specific vulnerabilities. Consequently, our responsibilities for safeguarding in cases involving former looked after children and anyone with special educational needs extend to the age of 21. However, if the CSE toolbox approach is useful there is no reason why it could not be taken in cases with older vulnerable people.

Who is the toolbox for?

In principle, anyone working with children or young people who are potentially vulnerable to the risks of being sexually exploited and abused can use the toolbox. Primarily this is likely to be those working in public, social and welfare services like the police, social care, education and health. However, it could also include individuals working in the voluntary sector with children’s and youth groups or those in contact with adults with responsibilities for potentially vulnerable children and young people.

Whatever your contact with children and young people is, you could make use of the toolbox to help you think through any concerns you have about the possibility of sexual exploitation. When you do so it is important to bear in mind the following:

  • Assessing vulnerabilities and risks of CSE are part of our wider responsibilities to safeguard the health, welfare and physical security of children and young people. Therefore, whatever we do must be integrated into our organisations policies and procedures for meeting these responsibilities.
  • Child sexual exploitation is complex and the experiences of vulnerable children and young people are likely to lie outside our own. They are also likely to be emotionally challenging for us to process. These factors make us want to respond quickly increasing the likelihood of us making assumptions and over simplifying things. So, it is vital that we share the assessment of risk with colleagues, specialists or champions and supervisors who can help us clarify our thinking, identify assumptions and construct relevant and accurate records.
  • Vulnerable people do not find it easy to invest trust in others. Therefore, whoever their first point of contact is needs to be kept informed and supported to take as active a role in the work as they can.
  • Being targeted and groomed for exploitation or threatened or victimised can result in the child or young person being inconsistent in their engagement. We must work with the choices they make when disclosing experiences of abuse and exploitation even though these might seem contradictory. However, this does not mean we must condone or collude in their choices when these increase risk.
  • Where there are contradictions in what the child or young person tells us these are likely to be caused by underlying emotional conflict. Such conflicts are only made worse when we pass judgement on the child or young person. We need to actively listen to their experience in order to support them.

Using the CSE risks and vulnerabilities assessment

Firstly, identify who is involved in the case that you are working on, including any significant family members, friends or network of professionals including foster carers. This includes the child or young person you think may be at risk, anyone who may be putting the child or young person at risk and anyone who takes a part in trying to reduce the risk or protect the child or young person from being exploited.

Next, review the indicators of actual CSE present in the case. If you believe that a child or young person is being abused take immediate action, inform the police and children’s social care child protection team. Once you have raised these alerts complete the assessment instruments in this document and share these with the professionals involved in the case.

If there are no indicators of actual CSE in the case, consider any indicators of suspected CSE. The presence of these indicators could still result in information sharing with police and children’s social services, however, the urgency of this needs to be counterbalanced by the need to provide as clear and complete a description of the case as possible. Identify and describe any indicators of suspected sexual exploitation recording any information you have about the child or young person and their associates or persons of concern.

Besides identifying indicators of exploitation it is crucial to make notes about them too. For example, if you have received reports of the child or young person being taken somewhere by unknown adults it is essential that you record as much detail as possible about who reported this and where the child or young person was being taken.

Having reviewed and annotated the indicators of CSE you will need to describe the child or young person’s vulnerabilities. These make them more likely to be targeted for, and susceptible to, sexual exploitation. Vulnerabilities are acquired throughout our lives as a consequence of particular circumstances and personal history so they are hard to anticipate and categorise. For this reason, the vulnerabilities check list only provides an indication of the sorts of things that can make a child or young person vulnerable. If you believe there are other sources of vulnerability specific to the case make a note of these at the end of the intra-personal vulnerabilities checklist.

Once you have clarified indications of CSE and the vulnerabilities these combine with you will be able to make a balanced, summative risk assessment. In essence, high level risks are where there is evidence that the child or young person is associating with individuals who are known to have been sexually exploitative in other cases. Cases where there are indicators of involvement with individuals suspected of CSE are rated as medium level risk. All other cases are considered to be at the standard level of risk. These are the threshold conditions for the levels of risk, consequently, when making the summative assessment you should consider whether the child or young person’s vulnerabilities mean that they are significantly beyond these thresholds. If this is your judgment in cases where the indicators suggest standard or medium levels of risk then you should make your assessment at the next highest level. If the case already meets the threshold for high level risk and you consider the vulnerabilities to be significantly elevating the risk then you should act immediately and inform local children’s social services child protection teams and share your concerns with the police.

You should always bear in mind other services may have other information about the case. If any of the indicators in Section 5 appear to be an issue in the case, particularly if there is more than one or when it is compounded by vulnerabilities in Section 6, you should speak to other agencies and, where appropriate, the family during the assessment. You should also consider using this toolbox to support discussion with your Designated Officer or to supplement a CAF/Shared Family Assessment or referral to another service including referral pathway for CSE and/or Children’s Social Care.

Clearly, throughout the assessment process and whilst recording any information about the case it is important to bear in mind the need to treat sensitive information as confidential. However, it is also worth remembering that rights to privacy and reasonable expectations of confidentiality are not absolute and are limited relative to our duties to safeguard the vulnerable child or young person in our care.

If you suspect anyone is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999. If a child or young person is currently at risk of significant harm, including from CSE, refer immediately to your local Children’s Social Care

Explanations and Illustrations

Types of CSE

The sexual exploitation of children and young people can be seen in varied forms which can be described through understanding models of CSE. It is important to recognise that these models do not necessarily work in isolation and various models can be operating concurrently. Understanding and recognising how a child is being exploited is a crucial part of enabling appropriate disruption techniques, support and whole planning around the child and family. As research and problem profiling develops nationally and locally these models may expand and contract. These models are an amalgamation of models reported by Barnardo’s, Children’s Society and Safe & Sound.

Inappropriate Relationship Model

This usually involves one perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person, such as being physically older, stronger or wealthier or in a position of power e.g. teacher or community leader. This person will be having some form of a sexual relationship with the young person. This can include familial abuse where a family member is exploiting their child, sibling for some ‘gain’, including third party gain. The abuser may also be vulnerable due to mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependency or a previous, and/or current, experience of exploitation themselves.

Organised/Network & Trafficking Model

This model includes the sex trafficking of children and young people across international borders as well as across internal borders, it can include the moving of children and young people between houses or hotels within the same town/district, for the purposes of passing children and young people to and amongst one or more sexual perpetrators. This includes larger networks of organised crime with the purposes of ‘selling’ children and young people.  Young people themselves can be exploited into ‘recruitment’ of other children and young people, including for the purposes of ‘sex parties’ arranged by the perpetrators. Such parties offer substances and alcohol to young people, and may involve webcams to record and stream sexual acts. Young people may be manipulated and blackmailed through indecent images obtained or allegations of a drug debt following the party, this can also be found in the gangs and peer on peer models.

Gangs and Group Model

Sexual exploitation can occur through gangs and groups; this can be through gang initiation rituals, threats of violence and bullying, or as a punishment for crossing gang areas for example. Females can be found to be exploited through ‘honey trapping’, whereby a woman is tasked to infiltrate another gang through sexual advances. Young males may be forced to have sex with older women or women of similar ages in order to prove masculinity or with adult males as a form of punishment. Both genders may drug run for the gang and this can involve ‘plugging’ where by substances are transported in their anus. It has been found that the retrieval of substances can be sexually humiliating. Young people can themselves be exploited into recruiting other young people into gangs, exposing others to risks of gang violence and sexual exploitation.

Peer on Peer Model

Sexual exploitation can happen amongst young people of a similar age, and is often referred to as ‘sexual bullying’ (Children’s Society, 2015). Some young people will befriend other young people and make them believe they are in a loving ‘relationship’ or ‘friendship’, they are then coerced into having sex with friends or associates. Peer on peer model can sometimes be related to ‘gangs and group activity’. Peer on peer sexual exploitation can include the abuse happening in public, by one or more perpetrators, and/or be filmed and distributed. In all cases of peer on peer exploitation, a power imbalance will still inform the relationship, but this might not necessarily be through an age gap between the abuser and the abused.

Older Adult ‘Boyfriend/Girlfriend’ Model

Often referred to as the ‘Boyfriend’ Model, this model involves the befriending and grooming of a child or young person by an older adult. This grooming process often revolves around the child and young person’s vulnerabilities and building the child or young person to believe that they are in a loving relationship. The young person may then be passed to other known adults to the ‘boyfriend’/ ‘girlfriend’ merging into the gang or organised network models.

Online Grooming Model

Children and young people are subject to many risks when they are accessing online activities and this includes the risk of sexual exploitation. This can include adults and peers deceiving and exploiting children and young people into producing sexual images of themselves, engaging in sexual chat online or sexual activity over a webcam.  Children and young people can be groomed on-line by sexual perpetrators and manipulated and coerced to meet up secretly, or images can be screen-shot and saved to blackmail young people, which can be frightening and intimidating.

Child under the age of 13 and those aged between 13 and 16 engaging in sexual activity.

No-one below the age of 16 can consent to engage in sexual activity with another person. Consequently, if someone engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of 16 a recordable offence is committed. If the sexual activity includes penetration[2] then the offence is rape otherwise it is likely to be an assault. Any professional who has reason to believe a child or young person below the age of 16 has been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted must report this to the police and children’s social care.

There are no circumstances under which sexual activity with a child under the age of 13 can be understood as anything other than either rape or a serious sexual assault. However, where the victim is between 13 and 16 years old the police will decide on a case by case basis whether investigation and prosecution are in the best interests of the young person and the public.

The Sexual Offences Act Chapter 2 Sections 5-8 (offences against children under 13) and sections 9-13) can be found at

Child or young person meeting with different adults and exchanging or ‘selling’ sexual activities.

At first glance this seems an obvious instance of abuse. However, there is some ambiguity over the terms ‘selling’ and ‘sexual activities’. The Sexual Offences Act (2003) provides some guidance on this point[3] which should help to clarify what is meant by a sexual activity:

Where the nature of the activity may or may not be sexual, prosecutors should consider the circumstances or purpose (or both) of the defendant in deciding whether it is sexual (e.g. R v Price The Times 20 August 2003, where stroking a woman's leg over trousers and below the knee was capable of amounting to an indecent assault).

If the adult’s purpose in the activity was sexual then the act was sexual irrespective of what the child or young person believed to be taking place.

With respect to ‘selling’ we need to be thinking about what benefit the child or young person perceived in engaging in the act. This is clearest where money is exchanged but if the adult provides or promises to provide goods (e.g. mobile phone, phone credit, jewellery, clothes, somewhere to stay, food, etc.) or access to something the child or young person would otherwise be unable to obtain (e.g. drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, etc.) then there is exploitation of relative differences in power that is a common feature of CSE.

Receiving money, goods or status (e.g. place in gang hierarchy) for forcing or coercing other children or young people to CSE.

The point about selling made previously applies here for receiving rewards of money, goods or status. CSE can also be a consequence of the complex combination of affection and fear. Where the child or young person has been subject to grooming strategies and especially if they have difficulties with attachment and self-esteem they may love and fear their abuser(s). This can undermine the child or young person’s capacity for empathy and be a powerful motive for recruiting others into abuse and exploitation.

Clearly forcing others into CSE is likely to leave the child or young person with feelings of guilt and shame and anxieties about prosecution. Whilst each case is considered in its own merits there are some principles governing decisions to charge and prosecute in these circumstances. The first of these is that these decisions must be referred to youth offender specialists within the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS will apply a Full Code Test to determine whether prosecution is in the public interest[4]. There are a number of technical factors that need to be taken into account but in general the CPS take the following line:

A prosecution is less likely to be required if...the seriousness and the consequences of the offending can be appropriately dealt with by an out-of-court disposal which the suspect accepts and with which he or she complies.

Being taken to or trafficked to hotels, clubs, brothels and massage parlours.

The Modern Slavery Act (2015) makes it an offence to arrange or facilitate the travel of anyone for the purposes of exploitation. It does not matter whether the person who is to be exploited is an adult or child or whether they have consented to the arrangements. The act covers the behaviour of any United Kingdom national or the behaviour of anyone making such travel arrangements within or across UK borders. Exploitation under the act covers anything that would result in the slavery, servitude or forced labour of the victim or sexual activity that constitutes an offence under either the Protection of Children Act (1978) or the Sexual Offences Act (2003).

Abduction and/or false imprisonment

The law on kidnapping, abduction and false imprisonment is more complex than trafficking. However, it is an offence for anyone to remove a person without their consent by force or fraud which is generally sufficient in cases involving children where parents or those with parental responsibility have not consented to the child being taken.

Being groomed online for sexual exploitation

Online grooming is a specific instance of general pattern of behaviour. Grooming in general describes the activities of abusive/exploitative individuals/groups that isolate a child or young person from familial and peer networks of support and cultivate relationships of dependency on the exploitative/abusive individuals or group. Grooming is often analysed into four stages:


This may be hard to distinguish from ordinary social behaviours in the first instance. However, the befriending stage will put the child or young person in contact with an individual of relatively greater power. Befriending often involves a series of contacts the first will be of similar status to the child or young person. They will make an introduction to someone of higher status who might then make another introduction to someone of even higher status. Usually these higher status individuals will be older and have access to resources that the child or young person does not, e.g. money, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, goods and services like mobile phones and credit or private accommodation.

In online grooming befriending does not necessarily mean a sequence of real befriending contacts as the individual grooming the child or young person may impersonate a different contact at each stage. Alternatively, they may progressively reveal the real differences in status between themselves and the child or young person as they cultivate dependency and promote isolation. For example, they may initially present themselves as someone of a similar age who shares their interests. Later, once they have managed to get the child or young person to distance themselves from their friends and family they might explain that they had not been open about their age because they knew that other people in the child or young person’s life would not understand how they felt and try to discourage their friendship.


This is an exchange of tokens of affection or esteem and status from the exploitative abuser for sexual behaviours that gratify the exploitative abuser. These tokens may or may not be of material value. What matters about them is that the child or young person thinks they mean the exploitative/abusive person(s) values them.

When exchange takes place online it might involve the child or young person appearing on a webcam or sharing images of themselves with the abusive/exploitative individual(s). The sexually gratifying nature of these images or behaviour on cameras might not be apparent to the child or young person who may regard their part in the exchange as trivial or insignificant. The token of exchange here is often attention, a sympathetic ear or encouragement and praise for displaying maturity or being beautiful/attractive. However, it could also be for online resources like account details for video streaming services, in game purchases, following and likes on social networking sites.


This is the exploitative/abusive individual’s response to resistance from the child or young person. Typically, the exploitative/abusive individual demands exchanges that are more gratifying for them and therefore more likely to cause the child or young person to feel uncomfortable. Control is exercised through a mixture of implied and overt threats often based on revealing something embarrassing or likely to cause the child or young person difficulties with their family, friends, school, police, etc.

Online this stage of grooming tends to take the form of threatening to reveal sexually explicit content from earlier exchanges unless the child or young person provides more and more extreme content. Unfortunately, digital content is particularly easy to share via social networking and video sharing sites. Abusive/exploitative individuals who practise online grooming will often only engage in offline, real world encounters once they have initiated some form of control.

The purpose of control is to establish and to some extent normalise compliance on the part of the child or young person. This is initially secured through coercion but often reinforced through intermittent forms of positive reinforcement by repeating things said and done in the befriending stage. This fosters confusion in the child or young person’s response to the abusive/exploitative individual by reminding them that this had once been a pleasurable and supportive relationship. This may encourage the victim to fantasise about how the relationship might be and invest in the idea that the abusive/exploitative individual can be converted provided the child or young person could get things right.


Having normalised and reinforced compliance abusive/exploitative individuals attempt to consolidate their hold over the child or young person by encouraging them to sever all remaining ties to their familial and friendship networks and maximising dependency. This can include supplying addictive substances, collecting evermore compromising material with which to threaten exposure and requiring the child or young person to be involved in the coercion of others.

Online the exploitation stage of grooming might involve the child or young person being made available to other abusive/exploitative individuals. Exploitation of this sort may entail exchanging access to different children and young people. There are cases where this sort of exchange results in direct financial exploitation although these are less frequent than the commercial use of images and video clips collected through online grooming.

For further material relating to grooming both on an offline visit the Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation website at:

Use of internet and other means of communication that are a cause for concern

The significant potential for exploitation via digital communications technology makes it vitally important to collect as much information as possible when there is cause for concern over a child or young person's use of social media and their online behaviour. It is particularly important to find out which apps and services are being used, usernames and account profile details as well as friends/followers lists.

Parents and guardians often find the way children and young people use new media to communicate a source of concern. This is often linked to anxieties about not understanding things and being ‘left behind’. Whilst such anxieties are understandable and may be a significant factor in the quality of the relationship between children and young people and their guardians/parents it is not in and of itself an indicator of CSE. However, where concern relates to the child or young person using new communications media to connect with unknown parties this is a source of risk. This is especially the case where attempts are made to actively conceal what is happening e.g. multiple sims/handsets/ accounts/profiles. Furthermore, some online services and sites e.g. non-subscription chat/webcam roulette services are more clearly suited to grooming and soliciting sexually explicit behaviours. Frequent use of these and/or attempts to conceal online contacts elevates risk.

Criminal or anti-social conduct/behaviour.

This could be connected with gang association/membership and can be used as a mechanism to detach children/young people from prior support networks. This is especially the case where gang rules are enforced through threats and intimidation that make it hard for the child/young person to leave the gang.

Disclosure of sexual/physical assault followed by withdrawal of allegation

It is not uncommon for allegations of abuse and exploitation to emerge through a series of episodes where the victim alleges abuse only to withdraw or deny the statements later. Children and young people often experience a confusing complex of conflicting emotional responses to abusive and exploitative individuals. They may both love and fear those hurting them and believe that that abusive/exploitative individuals really love them in return. They may be anxious about being rejected and being left isolated if they speak out. Threats may have been made against family members or friends making the child or young person feel guilty about exposing others to risk of harm. These feelings may also be compounded by shame especially if the child or young person has internalised the idea that they somehow deserve or have encouraged their abuse and exploitation.

Sites of Parallel Economic Activity

Parallel economic activity refers to the exchange of goods and services for money or items of value that may not be illegal in and of themselves but are not subject to normal levels of regulation by the agencies of the state. For example, prostitution or the exchange of sex for money/items of value between consenting adults is not illegal but many activities associated with it are, consequently, there is little formal regulation of prostitution. This lack of regulation means such activities are often integrated into black markets and criminal activities including the exploitation of children.

Whilst prostitution is a relatively straightforward instance of parallel economic activity that has a clear relationship to CSE there are other parallel economic activities that are less obviously connected with CSE. The sites of these sorts of activities might include:

  • Taxis and cabs - at first glance this appears to be a highly regulated industry as cab drivers operate under a system of licences and vehicles have to be specifically registered if they are used for hire. However, given the amount of business done outside conventional office hours, historically, this has been difficult to police and there has been a considerable amount of unregulated trade. For example, where drivers stand in for each other.
  • Takeaway food restaurants - again these are subject to some regulation but often operate outside conventional office hours employing staff on casual bases making them harder to regulate. Fast food delivery can provide a cover for the delivery of a wide variety of goods and can be used to traffick exploited individuals. Also, accommodation attached to takeaway restaurants has been used to accommodate parallel economic and illegal activities.
  • Hotels and B&Bs - almost by definition a significant amount of this business is outside of conventional office hours. Again, the industry often offers employment on a casual and temporary basis and a high priority is set on the privacy of guests. These are all features that can make hotels and B&Bs venues for CSE.
  • Clubs, Bars and Casinos - here casual and temporary employment and out of hours nature of the business combine with the befriending and exchange strategy of providing access to resources and high status activities.

Clearly, not all instances of the above are implicated in CSE or any other form of illegality. However, there are significant correlations between these sorts and sites and the parallel economic activities that are often found at them and CSE.

Loss of contact with professional network.

Risks here should be considered medium to high where the child or young person is actively avoiding or disengaging. Be on the lookout for coached or rehearsed responses that reject support, particularly where this is framed in terms of strangers interfering in private/personal life.

Possession of items that give cause of concern without plausible explanation.

Clearly there are a wide variety of items that might give us cause for concern largely dependent on the specific context of the case. Therefore, concern is not related to a specific item or class of items so much as the absence of a plausible explanation. For example, a young person who starts carrying a lighter and cigarettes or tobacco and hand rolling papers might plausibly be experimenting with these and could very conceivably be concealing this from parents and/or carers. A professional should feel some concern over this but it is not implausible that a young person might engage in this behaviour without their having been manipulated by someone exercising undue influence over them. However, we would have more sense of concern over a second mobile phone or bundles of cash as these seem less plausible things for any young person to start carrying.

It is not a matter of working out how concerned we should be about particular items so much as identifying where our sense of concern comes from when we experience it. We need to identify what it is about a case that gives cause for concern. Once we know where our concerns come from we can start to think about what they might indicate.

Guidance and Resources for Professionals Working with Children, Young People, Parents and Carers

There is a substantial and growing body of research and support material available on this topic. The sources recommended here are not intended to be exhaustive but they should provide the practitioner with a good starting point for developing professional insight and understanding.

STOP CSE - NWG Network

The NWG is a charitable organisation formed as a UK network of over 13,000 practitioners who disseminate information down through their services, to professionals working on the issue of child sexual exploitation and trafficking within the UK. The network covers voluntary and statutory services and private companies working in this field. It offers support, advice and raises the profile, provides updates, training, shares national developments, influences the development of national and local policy informed by practice. NWG have also developed a youth advisory board to enable young peoples’ voices to be heard through the work that they do.

The NWG is the only network working across voluntary/statutory agencies tackling child sexual exploitation, with links across Europe, South East Asia, Africa, Canada and USA exchanging knowledge, understanding and dedicated to seeking ways to find alternative solutions. NWG initiatives that help get the message out include:

  • An annual National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day (18th March)
  • Social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn
  • Regular forums, events and surgeries for the network including forums for front line practitioners and specialist learning and development seminars

The NWG member resource library currently holds over 1,200 relevant and useful resources available to gold network (fee paying) members and their public resources library is growing rapidly and offers research items, reports and community focused resources to everyone, free to download. The network continues to grow rapidly as more endeavour to improve services, with organisations sharing their knowledge and practice with others aiming to ‘get it right’ for those victimised by sexual abuse.

The International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking

The Centre is part of the University of Bedfordshire and aims to increase understanding of and improve responses to child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking. Whilst much of their research focusses on the United Kingdom there is an international dimension to their work. They produce guidance and support materials including a series of high quality and highly accessible videos for professionals to use in updating their practice. They take a collaborative approach to this work including the voices, and reflecting the experiences, of the children and young people they work with and advocate for.

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

Most professionals and many families are probably aware of the NSPCC and the work they do to safeguard children. Their website has a specific set of resources for use with children and young people and their families when dealing with CSE. These resources include video materials, case studies, reporting mechanisms, research findings and statistics as well as contact details for their help lines.


Another well-known charity with a long standing history of working for children’s welfare. Barnardo’s specific web resources for CSE include case studies, explanatory materials to help children, young people and their families understand what CSE means and resources for professionals to update their professional knowledge and understanding. There are also videos exploring the experiences of parents and carers of children and young people who have been sexually exploited and a free award winning smartphone app for teachers and carers to use with children and young people to raise awareness of risks of CSE.

Wud U? App developed by Barnardo’s:

Wud U? is a free educational tool that aims to show young people the behaviours that could put them at risk of being sexually exploited, through illustrated, interactive stories.

Wud U? will help to present sensitive issues to young people. You will be able to discuss the decisions they would make if they were in the same situations as the characters in the stories. The app also offers advice about these decisions.

The Wud U? app will help to:

  • demonstrate how young people can make safe decisions
  • provide more information about sexual exploitation, from a trusted source
  • raise awareness of sexual exploitation through sharing the app with other professionals.

Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE)

Pace works alongside parents and carers of children who are – or are at risk of being – sexually exploited by perpetrators external to the family. They offer a dedicated support mechanism for parents and carers, including a telephone helpline, a befriending scheme, and access to a free online course which supports parents and carers to recognise signs of CSE and what to do if they have concerns. They also offer guidance and training to professionals on how child sexual exploitation affects the whole family. PACE aims to enable and promote the role of parents and carers in safeguarding children being sexually exploited; disrupt and bring perpetrators to justice, and reflect the active safeguarding role of parents and the impact on families of child sexual exploitation. The PACE website hosts resources that explore and explain the nature of CSE that are targeted at parents and carers.

Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP)

CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency[5] which works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. They protect children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies. CEOP provide a number of services that support children, young people, families, carers and professionals. These include the CEOP Safety Centre which provides reporting facilities, the Missing Kids UK (MKUK) public awareness programme and Thinkuknow educational resources.

ThinkUKnow Resources

Think U Know provides access to a range of resources for parents/carers; teachers and trainers; children and young people aged 5 – 7; 8 – 10; 11 – 13; 14+

National Health Service: Choices

The NHS has specific online resources devoted to spotting and dealing with CSE and guidance and advice for parents and carers for raising concerns with children, young people and professional services (e.g. children’s social care). There are some videos to help parents and carers to think through the difficulties of disclosure and the importance of passing concerns to the appropriate authorities and links to other sources of support and advice.

Online safety advice for parents

The UK Safer Internet Centre shares tips for parents on talking to their children about online safety ahead of the new school year. These include: encouraging the child to share their online experiences by talking about your own experiences and asking for their opinions; if a child does come to you with a problem, stay calm and listen then find a solution together. Provides a collection of resources for parents and carers to help them support their children to have a safe and positive time online.

I Didn’t Know CSE Campaign

The award winning I Didn’t Know Campaign was launched across Southend, Essex and Thurrock in March 2016 as a public facing campaign to raise awareness about CSE, how to spot the signs of CSE and where to go for help if you have concerns. The campaign is supported by a video, a number of posters aimed at young people, parents/carers, and businesses, it is also supported by a parent/carer leaflet, resources for licensed businesses and taxi companies. The campaign promotes the Essex Police website which provides further information and advice to professionals, parents/carers, children and young people, and businesses. The website also provides access to all of the resources under ‘professionals’.
The campaign video ( can be used by professionals to open up discussions about CSE with children/young people or parents/carers.

Reporting to Essex Police

Essex Police Public Protection Operations Centre Triage Team

In September 2016, Essex Police implemented a new Public Protection centralised Operations Centre Triage Team.  Within this team is incorporated the roles and functions of the previously named ‘Child Sexual Exploitation Triage Team’.  This team will be the primary point of contact for Public Protection related referrals from partner agencies. 

The Triage Team is subdivided into a Child Triage Team (managing all child abuse, including online and CSE referrals), and an Adult Triage Team (managing all vulnerable adult referrals).  The team is supported by Missing Person Liaison Officers (MPLOs), Hate Crime Officers (HCOs) and an Intelligence Support Team, and consists of Detectives and police staff that are responsible for:

  • Receipt of public protection referrals from partner agencies.
  • Completion of background research for each referral.
  • Assessment to determine initial police response and risk management requirements.
  • Initial strategy discussions for new referrals.
  • Allocation of referrals to the appropriate police team or intelligence development and monitoring of the concern.
  • Responding to requests for information – unless the case is or has been subject of investigation.

Missing Person Liaison Officers (MPLO)

The responsibility of the Missing Person Liaison Officers is to maintain a comprehensive overview of missing people within a defined area in order to identify those who are at risk of significant harm and to co-ordinate the response from Essex Police and its partners, so as to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring to vulnerable people.  There are 10 MPLOs; one for each Essex Police District Policing Area.

Hate Crime Officer (HCO)

There is one dedicated Hate Crime Officer per local policing area.  The HCO will concentrate their safeguarding and multi-agency working through focus on high risk victims and repeat victims of hate crimes.

How to contact the Triage Team (Child or Adult)

  1. In an emergency situation:   If there is an immediate threat to life or safety Essex Police should be contacted on 999.
  2. Urgent response to a referral is required – but no immediate threat to life or safety:

Between the hours of 08:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday:

Contact the Triage Team directly by telephone: 101, extn 180022 or 180043.

For urgent cases a verbal referral will initially be accepted however it is requested that the original referral be supported by a written referral (see Essex Police Child Information Sharing Form), as soon as the urgency of the situation has been reduced.

  1. Outside of the above hours:

Contact the relevant Geographical Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) via the Essex Police Force Control room, by using the 101 call number.  There are now 6 CAIT: Colchester – Chelmsford – Basildon – Southend – Grays & Harlow.

  1. Non-urgent response to a referral required:

It is requested that the referral be in writing using the Essex Police Child Information Sharing From which must be sent via a secure email address e.g. .gsi/.pnn /

Email for the Triage Team –

Authorities under whom information is shared

The Whole Essex Information Sharing Framework (WEISF) is the overarching information sharing framework under which all information sharing agreements across the county are based.  Information shared in respect of a risk to children will be shared under the Southend, Essex, Thurrock (SET) Child Protection Procedures, safeguarding children information sharing guidelines and the Caldicott Guidance.  Information shared in respect of a risk to vulnerable adults will be shared under the auspices of the SET Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults Guidance.

The manner in which information can be disclosed takes into account the following:

  • To meet the policing purpose of protecting life and property; preserving order; preventing the commission of offences; bringing offenders to justice, or fulfilling a duty or responsibility arising from common law or statute.
  • The Data Protection Act 1998 (the processing of personal information).
  • The Human Rights Act 1998, Articles 2 and 3 and 8 for the rights of life, to be free from torture and the right to have a private life without suffering violence.
  • Race Relations Amendment Act 2000
  • Section 115 Crime and Disorders Act 1998
  • Section 120 Learning and Skills Act 2000
  • Section 325 Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Duty to co-operate)
  • Sections 39 & 39a Police Act 1996 (Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information)

What information can be shared?

Any information which may relate to sexual exploitation of a child or vulnerable adult can and should be shared.

This may be clearly significant in nature; e.g. the name of a suspected abuser or victim, or the make, colour and registration number of a vehicle used by a suspected abuser.

In some cases the significance or clarity of the information may be less clear; e.g. a child reporting they have seen a potential victim getting into a blue car on their way home from school or a pattern of unexplained behaviour.

What if the source of the information does not want their details disclosed to the police?

If the source is another professional or third sector worker who has obtained this information as part of their role, they should not be considered as a confidential source and their details should be disclosed. Any information about risk posed by disclosure of this information should be included on the information sharing form. The police will then be in a position to make an informed judgement on risk and further contact.

If the source is not a professional and does not wish their details to be passed to the police this can be respected in the majority of cases. However the originating agency / organisation MUST keep details of the source and record on the information sharing form where that information can be found and any reference number. In some cases there will need to be discussions with the originating organisation about risks to the source if their details are not disclosed and further information may be required to judge any risk to the source of the information.

What will the police do with the information?

  • The police will enter the information onto their intelligence database under the category of ‘Sexual Exploitation’.
  • They will review the new information against all previously held intelligence relating to sexual exploitation and also against any specific references contained within the information document.
  • If this new information provides sufficient intelligence to allow a further oversight of information held and additional investigation this will be referred to the most appropriate department for continuing investigation.
  • Information on the police database will be securely held in accordance with the Management of Police Information Act (MoPI) and will be disposed of under timescales and procedures agreed under the auspices of the Act.

Will the police pass the information to other agencies?

If the information or development of the information shows a defined risk to a child or vulnerable adult, the police will make a safeguarding referral to the relevant Local Authority in the usual way. The LA will then be responsible for safeguarding in accordance with the guidance relating to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

If the information or development of the information shows a potential criminal offence may have been committed, information will be shared with the most appropriate agencies.

This may include on a case by case basis organisations such as: Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU), CEOP, another police force, any Local Authority where the adult or child resides, Health agencies, the Salvation Army (for human trafficking), the Missing People charity and others who may be able to provide additional information or assist in a specific investigation.

Guidance for Working with Suspects and Persons of Concern

Positive action should always be taken when tackling perpetrators. There may not be enough grounds to arrest a perpetrator, but when a perpetrator is identified, positive action should always be taken and a perpetrator should be held to account for their actions. The next part of the document provides information regarding policing powers, orders and disruption tactics which can be used to hold perpetrators to account for their behaviour. The overview that follows does not provide an exhaustive list and each case should be considered on a case by case basis using a problem solving approach.

Intelligence Gathering and Information Sharing with Partners

Other agencies such as children’s services, youth offending etc., may have a wealth of intelligence and should be utilised when building a picture. For example intelligence can be developed by sharing it with partners (when appropriate) to help identify perpetrators.

Partnership working, with Social Care, Probation, YOS, Housing, Education, Health, UK Border Agency and voluntary sector partners is vital and opportunities to illuminate victimisation/perpetration need to be maximised by collaborative work across the partnership.

Court Orders and Police Powers

Police powers of protection

Children Act 1989 Section 46

This is a key power which should be used whenever potential victims are found in the company of potential perpetrators and they refuse to accompany the police voluntarily.

Police protection states:

Where a constable has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, he may –

  1. remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him there; or
  2. take such steps as are reasonable to ensure that the child's removal from any hospital, or other place, in which he is then being accommodated is prevented.

Abduction of Children in Care

Children Act 1989 Section 49

This states that:

it as an offence if someone knowingly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse takes a child who is subject of a care order, emergency protection order (EPO) or police protection order:

  1. away from the responsible person; or
  2. keeps such a child away from the responsible person; or
  3. induces, assists or incites such a child to run away or stay away from the responsible person.

This is a ‘summary offence’, meaning an offence that can be heard by a magistrate sitting alone, rather than a judge and jury.

Abduction of Child by Other Persons

Child Abduction Act 1984 Section 2

This provides an offence in relation to the taking or detaining of a child under 16 years:

  1. where the offender is not connected with the child so as to remove him from the lawful control of any person having lawful control of the child; or
  2. so as to keep him out of the lawful control of any person entitled to lawful control of the child.

It is a defence to this offence for the defendant to show that he believed the child to have attained the age of 16, and therefore the prior use of Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWNs) can eliminate this defence.

This is an ‘either way offence’, meaning it can be heard at either the Magistrates' Court or Crown Court.

Child Abduction Warning Notices (CAWN)

Formerly known as ‘Harbourers’ Warnings’. They can be issued against individuals who are suspected of grooming children by stating that they have no permission to associate with the named child and that if they do so they can be arrested under the Child Abduction Act 1984 and Children Act 1989. They can be a useful tool for parents because they require a statement from the person(s) with parental responsibility for the child. They can be issued to children up to the age of 16 if they are living at home, and up to 18 years if they are in the care of the Local Authority. CAWNs are issued by a member of a police force not below the rank of superintendent.

(2) A CAWN may be issued to a person (“A”) aged 18 years or over if the authorising officer has reasonable grounds for believing that—

(a) A has without lawful authority or reasonable excuse been found in the company of a child (“C”); and

(b) C is reported missing and is found on two or more occasions to be in the company of A; or

(c) there is reason to suspect that C‘s behaviour is, by reason of association with the defendant, giving significant cause for concern.

Where it appears an offence is disclosed officers must consider arresting for the offence irrespective of whether a CAWN has been issued.

Arranging or Facilitating Commission of a Child Sex Offence

Sexual Offences Act 2003 Section 14

This makes it an offence for a person intentionally to arrange or facilitate any action which he intends to do, intends another person to do or believes that another person will do, in any part of the world, which will involve an offence being committed against a child under any of sections 9 to 13 (includes sexual activity with a child).

Meeting a Child Following Sexual Grooming

Sexual Offences Act 2003 Section 15

This makes it an offence where a child under 16 travels to meet the adult or the adult arranges to meet the child, following two earlier communications, if the adult intends to commit a sexual offence against the child during or after the meeting, even if no sexual activity takes place. Three parts must have been committed for a defendant to be guilty of meeting a child following sexual grooming:

  1. The defendant must have met or communicated (eg. Text, email, Facebook, phone etc.) with the victim on at least 2 previous occasions.
  2. The defendant and the victim must meet, or one of them must travel with the intention of meeting the other, anywhere in the world.
  3. The victim is under 16.

The victim’s consent does not matter. This is because children aged under 16 are legally unable to consent to meeting someone for sexual purposes.

Trafficking Within the UK for Sexual Exploitation

Sexual Offences Act Section 58

This offence is intended to apply both to UK nationals who are moved from one place to another in the UK to be sexually exploited as well as to others, including foreign nationals, who are trafficked into the country to be sexually exploited. This is the first time that the trafficking of UK nationals within the UK has been tackled in legislation.

This makes it an offence for a defendant:

  1. intentionally to arrange or facilitate travel within the UK of a person where the defendant intends to do anything to, or in respect of that person that would result in the commission of a relevant offence involving that person; or
  2. where he believes that another person is likely to do something to, or in respect of that person that would result in the commission of a relevant offence involving him.

In both cases, the relevant offence must take place during or after the journey but may take place anywhere in the world.

Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE)

This gives the police power to remove a child from the company of a person who may expose them to significant harm. This is a key power which should be used whenever potential victims are found in the company of potential perpetrators and they refuse to accompany the police voluntarily. For example, you find a 14 years girl in a car in the city centre at 2 a.m. with a 28 years man. If you are not satisfied that there is a legitimate reason why the girl is with the man and you suspect she is there without the knowledge and consent of her carers or have any other grounds to believe that the girl is at risk of significant harm from the man, you must not simply take details and leave the girl with the man. If she refuses to accompany you make use the above power to remove her to ‘suitable accommodation’. This is likely to be the child’s home if this is safe to do.

A police station is not suitable accommodation. A child under police protection should not be brought to a police station except in exceptional circumstances, e.g. lack of immediately available local authority accommodation. If it is necessary to take the child to a police station every effort should be made to ensure their physical safety, comfort, access to food and drink and access to toilet and washroom facilities.

There is no ‘power of entry’ to exercise this power (for example to enter a property), but section 17 (1) may provide such grounds where there is concern that the child may be at risk of serious harm. Clearly the commission of a sexual offence against a child would amount to such harm.

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders (SHPO)

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 9, Section 114:

Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas. The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm, or protecting children from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

The Order prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003). A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions. Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Sexual Risk Orders (SRO)

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 9, Section 114

Sexual Risk Orders can be made where a person has done an act of a sexual nature as a result of which there is reasonable cause to believe that it is necessary for such an order to be made, even if they have never been convicted. The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm from the defendant; or protecting children or vulnerable adults generally, or any particular children or vulnerable adults, from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.

The Order prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel. A prohibition contained in a Sexual Risk Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of not less than 2 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions. Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.

Hotels Provision in relation to Child Sexual Exploitation

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 Part 9, Section 116 – 118

Allow the police (of at least rank of inspector) to require hotels and similar establishments, at which they reasonably believe child sexual exploitation is taking place, to provide to the police information about guests, this will include the guest’s name and address, and other information which will be prescribed following consultation with the police and the hotel industry, for example, age. The information supplied will be a source of valuable intelligence to support the investigation of any criminal offences which are being committed on the premises and help close the net on paedophile rings.

The ‘notice’ would specify how frequently the information must be provided, and over what period of time. The specified period will be no more than six months, although the police may serve a subsequent notice on the expiry of that period.

The hotel operator will commit a criminal offence if they fail to comply with the notice, without a reasonable excuse. It would also be an offence to provide information without taking reasonable steps to verify it or knowing it to be incorrect. Prosecution of these offences would be heard in the magistrates’ court, with a maximum penalty on conviction of a fine.

Trafficking people for exploitation

Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 Section 4

Introduces new criminal offences of trafficking in people, either into, within or out of the UK for the purpose of exploitation.

Allows for seizure, by a police constable or senior immigration officer, any vehicle, ship or aircraft used during the commission of offences contrary to Section 4. The transport used may be detained, pending a decision to charge. If charged and convicted on indictment, the court may order forfeiture of the transport used.

Anti-Social Behaviour Order

Crime and Disorder Act 1998

These may be either civil orders or be made following conviction for an offence. Interim orders are available. Enables a magistrates’ court to make this order against an individual whose behaviour has caused harassment, alarm or distress, breaching this order is an offence. These have an obvious application to banning individuals who may approach girls in public places such as parks or particular localities.

Restraining Orders

Protection from Harassment Act 1997 Section 5:

Allows a court to make an order either on the conviction or acquittal of a defendant for any offence where the court believes a restraining order is necessary to protect a person from harassment. The terms may be set by the court.

They should be applied for in any CSE related prosecution even where the victim has not requested the order to be made.

Wardship of a child or young person

Administration of Justice Act 1970 Section 1 (2) and Schedule 1:

The High Court can make a child a ward of the Court. The distinguishing characteristics of wardship are that custody of a child who is a ward is vested in the court and although day to day care and control of the ward is given to an individual or to a local authority, no important step can be taken in the child's life without the court's consent.

An application for wardship must be started in the High Court (although proceedings may be transferred to the County Court once a child becomes a ward unless issues of fact or law make them more suitable to remain) with a supporting affidavit detailing the grounds for the application and an originating summons in wardship. Any person 'with a genuine interest in or relation to the child', or the child, may instigate wardship proceedings as can the local authority with the court's permission. A respondent may be the parent or guardian of the child or any other person with an interest in or relationship to the child, or the child, if with the court's permission.

The child becomes a ward of the court immediately upon the making of the application and the court officer sends a copy of the application to the Principal Registry to be recorded in the register of wards. The respondent must file an acknowledgement of service in the usual way and must also file a notice stating their address and either the whereabouts of the child or confirming that they are unaware of the same. This must be served by them on the applicant unless otherwise directed and the court must be immediately notified of any changes. An application for a hearing must be made within 21 days and at that hearing if the court does not confirm the wardship it will lapse.

Common circumstances in which a child might be warded:

  1. orders to restrain publicity;
  2. orders to prevent an undesirable association;
  3. orders relating to medical treatment;
  4. orders to protect abducted children, or children where the case has another substantial foreign element; and
  5. e) orders for the return of children to and from another area.

Is there still a place for wardship?

  1. Whilst the Children Act 1989 severely restricted use of the jurisdiction, despite the many years since its enactment wardship has not shrivelled up out of all existence. It may still prove a useful tool in certain cases and practitioners should remain alive to it.

Although s 100(2) of the Act is clear and wardship cannot be used to bring about accommodation for a child, nor to manipulate the child coming into the care of the local authority, it remains an option where the child is not yet in local authority care but there are concerns. Wardship offers a good middle ground between a section 20 situation and pursuing a care order as both the local authority and the parents are accountable to the court and there is an obligation on the local authority to keep the court and the parents informed.

  1. Due to the immediate effect of wardship, the jurisdiction remains particularly useful in emergency situations such as where medical treatment is required, forced marriage is anticipated, or there has been threatened child abduction. The child becomes a ward of the court immediately upon the originating summons being issued thereby providing immediate protection. Furthermore an application to the High Court may also be taken more seriously and have greater weight. Due to the immediate nature of wardship it remains particularly effective in threatened child abduction cases. A child who is a ward of court may not be removed from England and Wales without the court's permission and where such permission has not been given, police assistance to prevent removal may be obtained. Such proceedings are, however, limited to children who are habitually resident in the UK.

Closure Orders

Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

Section 1:

Police may impose closure notices on premises which they have reasonable grounds to believe have been used in connection with the unlawful use, production or supply of a Class A controlled drug, and that the use of the premises is associated with the occurrence of disorder or serious nuisance to members of the public.

This may prove useful where it is known that premises are being used to hold ‘parties’ where children are being sexually exploited and it can be shown that drugs are being supplied.

Dispersal orders

Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 Section 30:

A superintendent, with the agreement of the Local authority, may issue an order for up to six months where members of the public are intimidated, harassed or alarmed by the presence of groups of people. Although intended to address ASB this may have an application in addressing ‘hot spot areas’ where youths gather and are targeted by perpetrators.

Civil injunctions

An injunction can be applied for by police, a local authority, a housing provider, the British Transport Police Force, Transport for London, the Environment Agency or the NHS Business Services Authority. An injunction is granted for a specific period of time, will name the person responsible for supervising compliance with the injunction and can include a power of arrest if breached. The injunction will require the person who is committing anti-social behaviour either to do a certain thing or prohibit them from doing a certain thing with the aim of stopping the anti-social behaviour and also preventing the individual involved from getting into crime. It could be used to prevent known people attending locations such as schools or children’s homes for example.

An injunction can be granted against a person aged 10 or over if two conditions are met:

(i) the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the person has engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour; and

(ii) the court considers it just and convenient to grant the injunction to prevent the person engaging in anti-social behaviour

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Child trafficking is the practice of transporting children into, within and out of the UK or any other country for the purposes of exploitation. The exploitation can be varied and include:

  • domestic servitude;
  • labour exploitation;
  • criminal activity (e.g. cannabis cultivation, petty street crime, illegal street trade, etc.);
  • sexual exploitation (brothels, closed community, for child abuse images);
  • application of residence;
  • benefit fraud;
  • forced begging;
  • illegal adoption; and
  • sham marriage.

Where there is an arrangement made to travel, or to facilitate travel with a view to child exploitation, section 2 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 should be used. In these circumstances, regard should be had to the victim's age in determining their vulnerability.

If the victim states they are a child, they should be viewed as such until their age can be verified by identification or an independent age assessment carried out by the local authority or a court determination. Section 51 Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides for presumption about age. Until an assessment is made of the person's age by the local authority, there is an assumption that the person is under 18.

In cases where there is no evidence of trafficking, but there is non-sexual exploitation, prosecutors should consider charging under section 1 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour). The consent to any of the acts of exploitation does not preclude a determination that the child is being held in slavery or forced labour.

Tactical Options for Disruption and Investigation

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Vehicles are a common feature of CSE investigations, for example –

  • To collect victims outside children’s homes;
  • To transport victims between towns;
  • To act as the location for sexual encounters; or
  • To cruise the streets looking for children to approach.

Police can use ANPR entries and Police National Computer (PNC) flags to ensure that vehicles believed to be being used for these purposes are stopped and checked regarding the presence of potential victims. It is essential that clear directions are given to officers who may stop the target vehicle in terms of action to be taken, for example:

  1. Obtain full details of all other occupants and submit for intelligence purposes.
  2. Take positive action and arrest for any offences that become apparent.
  3. Preserve the vehicle for forensic examination.


Local policing may circulate pictures and details of potential victims and perpetrators along with vehicle details to Community Policing Teams.  This information can be shared at multi-agency meetings and tasking meetings to ensure that opportunities to illuminate the problem are maximised. This ensures that officers are aware, can obtain intelligence and intervene, e.g. stopping known vehicles and using police protection powers where potential victims are found in the company of suspected perpetrators. It is important to consider sharing such information at any Gang Related Violence meetings to ensure that information is triangulated and links with associated threats are identified.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

CCTV should be integrated into any CSE problem solving model or investigation plan. Similarly, regular briefings of CCTV operators regarding CSE hotspots, victims, missing from homes and perpetrators will generate intelligence about them.

Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

Regular meetings to discuss cases would prove beneficial and may improve the strength of a case by the time it reaches court if CPS have given it an early steer in terms of evidence collection.

CPS Procedures for prosecuting child sexual offences

DNA and Other Forensic Examination

  • If there is evidence that some sexual activity has taken place between a perpetrator and a victim, you should seize and preserve evidence, e.g., appropriate items of the victim’s clothing. You should do this even when no complaint is made.
  • Scene searches should be conducted with crime scene investigator attendance and advice:
  • Conditions at location: If a victim has been kept at a location, you should record the conditions in which they were kept as well as conduct a forensic examination, e.g. to identify if the premises have been used by large numbers of men for sexual purposes.
  • Preservation: DNA may identify a significant number of perpetrators and it is vital that you preserve evidence to support any future disclosures that the victim may make.
  • Investigating a specific crime: If you are investigating a specific crime, you may obtain DNA from a victim for comparison with recovered forensic evidence using the elimination kits and DNA forms policy procedure.
  • Vulnerable persons DNA database: If you believe a child is at risk of sexual exploitation, you may take a volunteer sample and submit it for inclusion on the Vulnerable Persons DNA Database (VPDD). The DNA Bureau will seek authority from the DNA Strategy Board to use this sample for elimination purposes in all CSE cases where the donor is the suspected victim.

Financial Investigation

If you suspect children are being trafficked for sex and the perpetrators are profiting financially, you should liaise with the local Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) team/financial investigators regarding the options and agree an investigation strategy. This may be relevant where the perpetrator is also believed to be involved in drugs offences.

In addition to identifying any financial transactions in relation to trafficking, an investigation may reveal travel histories and spending information, e.g. hotel stays which you can follow up; and disclose other offences which the perpetrator can be prosecuted for such as tax evasion or benefit fraud.

Home visits

If you believe that potential victims are frequenting a suspected perpetrator's address, particularly where a Child Abduction Warning Notice has been given, you may make visits to the perpetrator's home address to ensure that at risk children are not present; and reinforce previous advice. Police Officers should be mindful of the potential risk escalation to victims, following any visit that is made to perpetrators and ensure that appropriate steps are taken to mitigate and prevent that risk.

Immigration Status

If you suspect a perpetrator may be a recent arrival in the UK, you should make enquiries with the UK Border Agency to establish their immigration status.

MAPPA (Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) Referral

These are designed to protect the public, including previous victims of crime, from serious harm by sexual and violent offenders. The Responsible Authority is the primary agency for MAPPA. This is the police, prison and Probation Trust in each area, working together. The Responsible Authority has a duty to ensure that the risks posed by specified sexual and violent offenders are assessed and managed appropriately. Information is stored in a central database known as ViSOR. If the appropriate criteria are met, refer the perpetrator to MAPPA.

Medical Examinations

Except in the case of very young children, the victim must normally consent to a medical examination.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

This is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support. When an agency comes into contact with a child who may have been exploited or trafficked, Local Authority Children’s Services and the police should be notified immediately. A referral into the NRM does not replace or supersede established child protection processes, which should continue in tandem. The NRM is also used by the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) to collect data about victims. This information contributes to building a clearer picture about the scope of human trafficking in the UK.

All children, irrespective of their immigration status, are entitled to safeguarding and protection under the law. Referrals to the NRM should be for all potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery, who can be of any nationality, and may include British national children, such as those trafficked for child sexual exploitation or those trafficked as drug carriers internally in the UK.

Where there is reason to believe a victim could be a child, the individual must be given the benefit of the doubt and treated as a child until an assessment is carried out.

NRM Process

For more detailed information about the NRM see the National Crime Agency site at

Further advice and resources for front line professionals working with people who have been or are vulnerable to being trafficked can be found at

Probation Service and Youth Offending Service

You could liaise with probation service staff regarding enforcing licence conditions and recall to prison and/or youth offending service staff.

Registered sex offender

You could manage the perpetrator as a registered sex offender, if applicable.

Say Something If You See Something Toolkit

CSE can be easy to miss if you do not know the signs. The Children’s Society has developed this toolkit which can be adapted and used anywhere around the country to help local communities safeguard their young people.

Access to the toolkit via the National Working Group (NWG) These include resources for Boxing clubs, training packages for hotels and security staff, resources such as posters, door hangers, taxi and private hire documents etc.

The NWG also operate a Recognition and Participation Scheme for businesses who demonstrate a proactive response to tackling Child Sexual Exploitation.

Targeted patrolling

You could conduct targeted patrols in areas where children regularly go missing, e.g. takeaways, parks, taxi offices, bus/rail stations and similar locations where young people congregate.

Targeting for Other Offences

You could target perpetrators for other offences, e.g. motoring or public order offences.


Use appropriate powers of search and seizure when investigating CSE to preserve and secure relevant evidence.  If an arrest is made a S18 should be conducted.

Mobile Phones

If there are reasonable grounds to believe that seizure of a phone is necessary as:

  1. It either contains evidence in relation to an offence you are investigating or any other offence
  2. It was obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence

If the seizure of the phone is for intelligence purposes only this is not recommended unless you have permission of the owner of the phone to retain and examine it. This should be in writing.
Once the phone has been seized a full download can be conducted by the Technical Support Unit during an agreed timescale depending on urgency.

If phone numbers are provided from carers or agencies, these can be checked against Athena/Compact to potentially identify potential perpetrators.

Covert downloads of all phone data can be conducted in certain circumstances, ie as part of the investigation of an offence or if a child is missing and considered to be at serious risk of immediate harm, under compliance with RIPA without requiring possession of the phone itself.

Facebook and Other Social Media

The police can access open Facebook/Twitter pages without the owner being aware that the page is being viewed. Although CSE victims typically only allow access to identified ‘friends’ this may still disclose some information. You should consider gaining the appropriate authority to gain further access.

Laptops and Computers

If a victim is using one laptop or computer, you may be able to monitor the activity on it. In any investigation, you must seize all computers, 'phones, storage devices and so on for examination.

Tenancy Breaches

You should liaise with housing officers, tenancy enforcement and landlords over potential breaches of tenancy agreements or housing contracts with recommendations to take action against the perpetrators.

Trigger Plans

A trigger plan is a plan of action that is set up in advance to be triggered in the event of something foreseen happening. Trigger Plans are completed for all children assessed by police as at high risk of CSE and/or if a frequent missing person.

Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) and Child Exploitation and On-line Protection (CEOP)

MSHTU and CEOP can offer tactical advice on the conduct of organised and complex CSE investigations.

Vehicle stop checks

Conduct proactive stop/checks of vehicles of suspects known to be engaged in CSE;


When investigating offences of rape and other serious indictable offences you can use:

  • PACE warrants to search premises for material that is likely to be relevant evidence;
  • Protection of Children Act allows entry and search where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting the presence of indecent photographs or pseudo photographs of children on the premises;
  • S50 Children Act 1989 order authorises you to enter and search premises for a child where there is reason to believe that a child who is subject of a care order, emergency protection order or police protection order is being held in circumstances amounting to an offence under s49 of this act (keep away child without lawful authority);
  • Misuse of Drugs Act – If there is a strong link between drug dealing and men engaged in CSE and you are finding it difficult to obtain evidence of CSE offences, you may find it easier to progress possession/supply offences using warrants under this act.

Hotspot Management

A number of locations repeatedly feature in national CSE investigations, these include:


Where hotels are known to be frequented by CSE perpetrators and the management are failing to prevent this, you should consider:

  • liaising with the Trading Standards regarding compliance with legislation, e.g. under the Business Names Act 1985 owners of hotels must display a notice showing the owner's name where it is not the same as the business name, and regulations, e.g. fire regulations and registers must be kept of guests over 16 years of age.
  • routine high visibility visits;
  • meetings with area and regional management;
  • using Child Abduction Warning Notices for management and staff;
  • seizing CCTV footage and guest registers (See Police Powers);
  • forensic examination of rooms;
  • obtaining payment details used by perpetrators; and
  • covert observations.


Parks can be the location of initial contact between victim and perpetrator; or sexual offences. If you identify a particular park as featuring regularly in occurrences, you should liaise with the local authority to agree a joint action plan and consider:

  • high visibility patrols with stop checks of potential victims / perpetrators and submitting intelligence; or using covert surveillance.
  • briefing park staff regarding perpetrators / victims;
  • reviewing available CCTV and tasking of CCTV operators; installing lighting if specific locations are identified;
  • outreach
  • considering using warning notices regarding police patrols/CCTV etc.

City Centres

If you identify a number of regular locations in city/town centres, e.g. fast food takeaways, bus stations or other particular locations, you should consider:

  • briefing Local and Community Policing teams
  • briefing to relevant staff from other agencies (local authority, security guards, bus station staff); using CCTV and briefing to CCTV operators;

Takeaways and Taxi Firms

If a takeaway is frequently linked to CSE incidents and the staff/ proprietors are uncooperative, you should consider:

  • briefing Local and Community Policing teams at relevant times;
  • using Child Abduction Warning Notices
  • prosecuting if evidence available regarding child abduction offences or s14 Sexual Offences Act offence;
  • covert surveillance including potentially mobile surveillance where it is suspected victims are being trafficked from premises;
  • liaising with Local Authority Licensing and Trading Standards and in the case of taxis the local authority taxi licensing authority with a view to revoking licences; and
  • liaising with the Department of Work and Pensions and UK Border Agency regarding illegal employees.

Children's homes

Some perpetrators target children’s homes and will park near to them, contact the victim by 'phone and arrange for them to leave and meet them. You should consider:

  • liaising with Children's Services to ensure that unauthorised absence incidents not reported to the police are being recorded by the local authority and patterns notified to the police;
  • preparing police/children’s services action plans agreeing joint actions should the potential victim go missing;
  • briefing staff regarding identities, photos and vehicle details of potential perpetrators and collating and analysing intelligence from care home staff regarding incidents, e.g. details of vehicles seen etc.
  • high visibility patrols at relevant times;
  • covert observations and potentially mobile surveillance with the home as a pick up point;
  • consider moving the victim to new accommodation to prevent contact and break up groups of victims who may go missing together; and
  • collecting potential sources of evidence by home staff, e.g. mobile 'phone lists (often kept by victims who fear their sim cards may be confiscated) and clothing when the victim returns and it is believed sexual activity has taken place.


Schools may be identified as having particular issues in connection with CSE because one child has been targeted and is drawing friends into the abuse or because perpetrators may live locally or have attended the school themselves. You should consider:

  • briefing staff with identities, photos and vehicle details of potential perpetrators;
  • collating and analysing intelligence from staff regarding incidents
  • school staff recording all unauthorised absence incidents;
  • talk to pupils about CSE issues and high visibility patrols at relevant times;
  • covert observations and potentially mobile surveillance with the school as a pick up point;


[1] See government guidance for this at

[2] for detailed explanation of the legal status of penetrative sex see


[4] A Full Code Test would also consider whether the evidence available would be sufficient to secure a prosecution. However, this evidential stage of the test is not relevant to our considerations here.

[5] NCA’s CSE web resources are at