The Home Office has said it will “leave no stone unturned” in its bid to tackle child sexual grooming after it was reported that nearly 19,000 minors in England were exploited in the past year.
Latest figures show a sharp increase in the number of child grooming victims over the last five years, according to The Independent.
Local authorities identified around 18,700 suspected victims in 2018-19, up from 3,300 five years ago, the website reported.
Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, which has been targeted by grooming gangs, told The Independent the figures show this type of exploitation “remains one of the largest forms of child abuse in the country”.
She added: “Too many times, Government has said it will ‘learn lessons’, yet 19,000 children are still at risk of sexual exploitation.”
Last weekend, a Telford abuse victim told the Sunday Mirror of her relief at seeing justice finally served.
She became the first Telford victim to see her abusers jailed after the newspaper revealed how paedophile gangs groomed girls for sex.
The woman, who is going by the name ‘Sarah,’ was targeted at 12 and prosecutors said she was treated “like a piece of meat”.
Four men in the West Midlands were jailed for abusing her after she was sold for sex and raped.
The offences took place between 2000 and 2003 and started when Sarah, who is now an adult, was 13.
She said after her tormentors were finally jailed a total of 22 years over the sex crimes against her: “I just sobbed. I was relieved, happy and sad, all at the same time.”
The Sunday Mirror campaigned for a public inquiry in Telford after finding authorities failed to act on warning signs.
A public inquiry was finally commissioned by Telford and Wrekin Council in April 2018.
The figures reported by the Independent today, obtained from the Department for Education, showed that Lancashire recorded the highest number of children who were victims of grooming of any local authority (624).
It was followed by Birmingham (490), Surrey (447), Bradford (414) and Gloucestershire (409).
The Home Office spokesman added that the department launched the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse “to get to the truth, expose what has gone wrong and learn lessons for the future”.
He added: “The inquiry operates independently of government and, within its terms of reference, decides for itself what it investigates.
“The inquiry is investigating institutional responses to child sexual exploitation by organised criminal networks with public hearings set for the spring of 2020.”