Significant advancements have been made in terms of the level of support and help available to victims of abuse, although there are still many areas of concern where improvements must be made. It has become evident that the presence of child abuse in our society is much more commonplace than we could have feared. However, the biggest challenge comes when trying to look at ways in which child abuse and exploitation can be prevented in the first place.
A step in this direction has been taken with a ground breaking decision of the High Court, creating the opportunity for potential victims to be protected by means of an injunction obtained through the civil courts. The High Court heard applications from Birmingham City Council for an injunction against a number of men to prevent them from approaching girls under the age of 18 years with whom they are not personally associated in a public place. The applications stemmed from serious concerns of social workers that the men were seeking to sexually exploit a young girl, who has also been given specific protection by the injunction. These so called ‘anti-grooming orders’ are designed to be used where the criminal courts are unable to help and could prevent potential victims being subjected to abuse in the first place.
There is no doubt that other local authorities will have been keeping close watch on the outcome of Birmingham City Council’s novel approach. Following their success, local authorities around the country are likely to follow suit by making similar applications in ongoing efforts to tackle child abuse and exploitation. The full extent of the ways in which a number of local authorities have failed in the past to protect vulnerable children from abuse is still being revealed. However, it is hoped that the precedent set by Birmingham City Council will be a powerful tool in the protection of vulnerable children.