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Thursday, March 11, 1999 Published at 19:53 GMT


Boyfriends 'selling young girls for sex'

It seems men woo young girls and then abuse them

Girls as young as 12 are being sold for sex often by older and abusive boyfriends, according to the children's charity Barnardo's.
Delegates attending a conference in Liverpool heard that men are controlling, coercing, assaulting, raping and in extreme cases torturing children.
But instead of being arrested and convicted, the legal system is effectively failing to prosecute these men.
The Barnardo's campaign is urging the government to view those involved in the sex trade not as prostitute, punter and pimp, but as an abused child, a sex offender and an abusing adult.
About 130 delegates, including police, childcare professionals and social services managers attended the conference, called "Working Together - Children Abused Through Prostitution", at Alder Hey children's hospital in Liverpool.
They discussed plans to set up a multi-agency service in Merseyside to tackle the problem.
Abusive men
Barnardo's spokeswoman Sara Swann said men were actively seeking pre-pubescent girls.
"They are not standing on street corners, they're in flats and people are being brought to them. The material that we have shown today demonstrates abusive boyfriends who are more than five years older than the girls involved.
"And the vast majority are actually being forced into the process by boyfriends who groom them, woo them and give them things.
"But the child cannot consent to her own abuse. If it were in any other situation it would be seen as abuse yet these girls are being viewed as and treated as prostitutes," she added.
'Prostitute' label
Julie Dugdale, Assistant Director of Barnardo's Northwest, said: "In all other instances when a man has sex with a child, it is regarded as child abuse, but because money is exchanged between two men, children are being labelled as prostitutes.
"We then have the legal absurdity whereby girls who are too young legally to consent to sexual intercourse could be cautioned and convicted of offences relating to prostitution."
Miss Dugdale said the problem was not confined to inner city red light areas but was happening across the country, crossing class boundaries.
Detective Inspector Richie Humphreys of Merseyside Police said the men involved were "just sex abusers by any other name".
"We have already identified officers to tackle the problem on Merseyside with men who pay for under-age sex finding their name on the national paedophile register."
Although exact figures are not available, surveys across the country showed a minimum of 267 girls under 16 and a further 338 between 16 and 18 had been in contact with agencies

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