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Developments in the UK’S response to child trafficking and child sexual exploitation

The rapid proliferation of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and child trafficking in the United Kingdom (UK) has recently become the focus of intense discussion, debate and intervention in the country. Several high-profile investigations and reports have revealed that thousands of children have been sexually exploited by individuals, gangs and groups and men in positions of authority throughout the UK. A recent UK National Crime Agency (NCA) report found that child trafficking has increased in the country. Since 2011, every year there has been an increase in the number of children trafficked from more than 50 countries, including the UK, and exploited in forced criminal activities, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour and organ harvesting.In response, the UK government has focused on improving its legislative, policy and practice responses to child sexual exploitation, online child sexual abuse, human trafficking and modern slavery. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, at a landmark summit held at Downing Street in March 2015, described CSE as a ‘national threat’ and announced new measures to tackle CSE. Amendments have also been made to the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to improve prevention and prosecution of child sexual exploitation offences. Furthermore, 2015 saw the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, cited as landmark legislation in the fight against human trafficking; forced labour and modern slavery, which includes sexual exploitation and sexual abuse; forced prostitution; and exploitation of children for the production of child abuse images and videos.

This chapter presents a brief overview of the scale of child sexual exploitation and child trafficking in the UK, a description of existing and new national responses to child protection and an analysis of the international ramifications of domestic measures to prevent the sexual exploitation of children abroad by British nationals.