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Birmingham City Council obtains injunctions against men contacting girls under 18

Keehan J permits the naming of respondents

Birmingham City Council has obtained injunctions against a number of men who have been found inappropriately in the company of a vulnerable young woman.  Mr Justice Keehan has granted long-term orders which ban the men from approaching girls under the age of 18 with whom they are not personally associated.

Lorna Meyer QC of No 5 Chambers, representing Birmingham City Council, said the council and police had identified a "number of individuals" found to be "inappropriately" in the company of a 17-year-old girl.

Keehan J ordered that the men could be named despite the objections of the police who were concerned for their safety.

Peter Hay, Director of People, Birmingham City Council said:

"Although there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction at present, we do have enough information to obtain injunctions – these use a lower evidence threshold and the balance of probability.

"This is a ground-breaking approach, finding new ways to protect victims.

"We have to recognise that previous ways of dealing with this have not always worked. Too often the victim has not seen herself as a victim so it has been difficult to use the conventional criminal prosecution route.

"Because perpetrators befriend their victims and make them feel special it is therefore harder to gather concrete evidence to use against them.

"For far too long, men committing abuse have seen this as something they control; this is about taking control away from them and giving control to the victims. It gives them a safe space in which to come to terms with their exploitation.

"Our approach has to evolve and we have to find innovative ways of working; we believe we are the first local authority to use this approach. However, we couldn't do this without the police. We have used intelligence gathered by both agencies as well as evidence of perpetrators' criminal activities.

"This doesn't replace the criminal process but it is about finding complementary ways of working together to do all we can to safeguard vulnerable children.

"The legislation we are using was historically used to protect children before the introduction of the Children Act 1989, which gave a statutory basis for most child protection needs, so has rarely been used since.

"This is about making children safer; we are already starting work on our next set of proceedings and I would fully expect to see other local authorities following our lead.

"The young woman in question comes from a large family and has been known to Birmingham social services for a number of years. She is a bright young woman who cares deeply about her family, especially her siblings. However, she is also a troubled young woman and up until September this year she was reported missing to police 102 times since July 2010.

"We strongly believe that she is being consistently sexually exploited and has been since her early teenage years.  Every time she goes missing a police investigation is launched. She has been found in hotel rooms with men in states of undress and in a state of intoxication, despite lack of funds.

"Despite many attempts to work with her to understand the risks she was placing herself in, she continued to have contact with these men.

"She is now safe, in secure accommodation for her own protection."

DCSupt Danny Long, Head of Public Protection Unit, West Midlands Police:

"This is an innovative legal approach – the use of an existing power to tackle an evolving crime. The injunctions give us the power to help to protect young people without putting them at the heart of a judicial process.

"Child sexual exploitation (CSE) victims do not recognise that they are being abused.  If you do not recognise that you are being abused then you do not realise that you need protecting.

"This approach offers the child protection, whilst letting us concentrate on those who we believe are committing abuse, we are taking the suspected abuser's control away from them.

"These injunctions do not replace the criminal process but rather sit alongside it.  They are not a soft or easy option.  This is an additional opportunity to offer protection and safety to those who are most vulnerable, at a time when they need it most.

"These injunctions are given by the highest court.  They have complex dossiers of information and intelligence, months of police and children's services work sitting behind them and are part of a careful and considered policing operation."

For a report of the court proceedings, see the Birmingham Mail.

20/11/14