Child Criminal Exploitation Team Briefing

Basic Introduction to Child Criminal Exploitation, Team Briefing, June 2020

Why Talk about Child Criminal Exploitation? 

Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18. The victim may have been exploited even if the activity appear consensual. It does not always involve physical contact as it can also occur through technology. It can also include offences such as being forced or coerced to deal drugs or commit theft.

Child Criminal Exploitation is a growing issue where gangs target vulnerable children and coerce them to carry out criminal activity  

Victims of Child Criminal Exploitation have a statutory defence to offences they may have been forced to commit under Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.


How to use this briefing?

This briefing should provide you with some basic information raise awareness within a staff team around the topic of Child Criminal Exploitation. 

  • Ask team members to read the briefing then as a group work through the information, using it as a prompt to promote discussions
  • Use the discussion points at the end to explore how your team works with the topic
  • Consider if there are any further learning and development needs in your team and who is best to pursue this


What is Child Criminal Exploitation? 

Child Criminal exploitation is a form of modern slavery that sees victims being forced to work under the control of organised or even small time criminals in activities such as begging, shoplifting and pickpocketing, drug dealing, financial exploitation and/or money laundering. Child Sexual exploitation is an act or acts committed through non-consensual sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other non-legitimate purpose. See separate CSE Team Briefing A victim may have been criminally or sexually exploited even if the activity appears consensual, either form of exploitation can also occur through the use of technology. 


County Lines

County Lines is a major cross cutting issue that involves drugs, violence, gangs, safeguarding, criminal exploitation, child sexual exploitation, and modern day slavery. The 2018 Home Office Serious Crime Strategy states that County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas (within the UK), using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal lines”. Perpetrators use children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money by means of coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons to other areas within the city or across wider geographical areas. 


Who is at risk of Child Criminal Exploitation? 

Children of any age or gender and from any community are at risk and all practitioners should be open to the possibility that children they work with might be affected. Child Criminal Exploitation and Child Sexual Exploitation can often be interlinked, with young people at risk of or experiencing both forms of abuse.  Children aged 15-17 years of age are most at risk of CCE through County Lines although victims much younger than this have been identified. Account should be taken of heightened risks amongst this age group, particularly those without adequate economic, social or emotional support. Young people are specifically targeted due to a perceived vulnerability and groomed through promises of money, friendship, status etc. Once in they are then controlled though threats, violence and sexual abuse. 

Victims of CCE may also be at risk of becoming instigators of CCE. 


Signs and Indicators of CCE? 

  • Unexplained money/ items and/ or ability to fund travel fares/ fast food.
  • Going missing for short or long periods/ being found in places where they have no known link.
  • Secrecy around new associations.
  • Additional mobile phones or concerning use of technology.
  • Disclosure of sexual /physical assault and reluctance to report.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Changes in temperament/ emotional wellbeing.
  • Changes in behaviour related to education/ leisure activities.
  • Spending time with others known to be involved in exploitation.
  • Visiting places where there are concerns about anti-social behaviour/ gangs/ exploitation.


What can we do?  

  • Be interested, professionally curious, and listen from a safeguarding perspective
  • Listen to parents, carers and friends as they know the young person best
  • Spend time with the young person getting to know them – be consistent
  • Don’t make judgements around involvement in criminal activity as their actions and choices are controlled by perpetrators with more power than them
  • Be mindful of the language you use and look at the situation in a safeguarding context
  • Explain what is happening, why you need to share this information, and keep them updated with the outcomes
  • Build a child or young person’s resilience by identifying their strengths and future plans
  • Complete the Child Exploitation Risk Identification Tool - available on the LSCP website
  • Consider making a referral to Mace Bronze meeting (see MACE One Minute Guide).
  • If a child is at risk of, or experiencing significant harm contact The Duty & Advice team at The Front Door

The Child Exploitation Risk Identification Tool helps establish if a child is at low, medium or high risk of exploitation by looking at the risk indicators in areas pertinent to the child’s current circumstances.


MACE – Multi Agency Child Exploitation Framework 

This framework describes the current Leeds arrangement to respond to children vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, including CCE, CSE, those who go missing and modern day slavery and trafficking.  The framework promotes a multi-agency approach as outlined in the Governments ‘Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation’ progress report (Feb 2017) to reduce vulnerability and support victims and survivors.

The MACE framework has four interrelated steps:  Partnership Intelligence Management Meeting (PIMM); Bronze Group; Silver Group; and Gold Group. Meetings are held with partner agencies to share information, consider push and pull factors and to enable further actions to be set for each child or young person, along with identifying themes, trends and potential suspected perpetrators. See MACE One Minute Guide for more information. 


Areas for Consideration

  • How do we currently recognise & respond to CCE in our service?
  • Do we need to consider changing our ways of working with children at risk of or currently involved in exploitation?
  • What more can we do to raise awareness of CCE and support victims and their families? 
  • How can we find out more about CCE and who will do this? 


Further Information & References