Devon Strategic Assessment 2014-15 – Emerging Trends

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Contents

Child Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

This section examines the victims, offenders and likely places where children could be vulnerable – then the types of abuse/exploitation that can occur. The Police hope to lead in educating all people that come into contact with children to look for the warning signs and report those worries. Local Safeguarding Children Boards, and Missing and CSE forums already exist – it is hoped that improved results will enable them to confirm their policies and measure success over time.  Child Sexual Abuse is considered together with Child Sexual Exploitation in order to protect all children in the county.

Most of the following text has been based on a document produced by Devon & Cornwall Police at Peninsula level – in due course a document for Devon will be produced.

Definitions of both:

Child sexual abuse: Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration, (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).  Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

HM Government, Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (2015).

The sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18: involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability

The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, (2008) (Adopted by UK government and Association of Chief Police Officers).

Sexual Offences to Under 18s in Devon
All crimes in Devon for the year ending 31 Mar 2015 –Sexual Violence consists of rape and other sexual offences.

Age & Gender of Victims (Percentage)

59 Victims where the perpetrator was suspected

Age BandFemalesMalesUnknownTotal
0-50.0%0.0%0.0%
6-1213.6%16.9%30.5%
13-1518.6%5.1%3.4%27.1%
16-1739.0%3.4%42.4%
Total71.2%25.4%3.4%100.0%
Age & Gender of the 59 Suspected Perpetrators (Percentage)
Age BandFemalesMalesTotal
0-120.0%1.7%1.7%
12-150.0%10.2%10.2%
16-171.7%3.4%5.1%
18-251.7%35.6%37.3%
26-350.0%6.8%6.8%
36-451.7%20.3%22.0%
46 or older1.7%15.3%16.9%
Total6.8%93.2%100.0%

Age & Gender of Victims (Percentage)

324 Victims where the perpetrator was  not known

Age BandFemalesMalesUnknownTotal
0-51.9%0.6%2.5%
6-127.7%8.0%15.7%
13-1526.9%0.6%1.2%28.7%
16-1748.8%4.3%53.1%
Total85.2%13.6%1.2%100.0%
Although the small number of victims where the perpetrator was known is statistically fragile comparing it with the larger numbers where the perpetrators wasn’t known gives a more robust idea. In the Devon & Cornwall force area the 13-15 age group was the most vulnerable (39%) but in Devon the 16-17s are most under threat.
As with the Devon & Cornwall Police force area the male 18-25 group were the highest offending age group.

Victims

Although children of all ages are at risk of abuse and exploitation, teenagers are particularly at risk of peer to peer abuse and abuse in inappropriate relationships with young adults.

Girls and young women report many more sexual offences than boys and young men. National reports have discussed the under reporting of male victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Cultural perceptions are ingrained, leading authorities and the public to typically identify males as offenders and girls as victims. This may lead to missed opportunities in identifying ‘at risk’ children before offences occur. Girls missing from home or from care are also more likely to be reported than boys, who appear to be perceived as at a lesser risk when they are late home or missing. Boys and young men hanging around with older peers, or in inappropriate relationships appear to be less likely to be viewed as potential victims. Boys also appear less likely to talk about CSA/CSE than girls. Girls may also have more opportunities to disclose, for example through more routine interaction with school nurses.

Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) – One group at particular risk may be lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) children. Because of social stigma, children are unlikely to experiment with their sexuality or gender identity in the relative safety of their social group. Barnardos have explored this specifically with boys and young men. They found many boys will engage with strangers, sometimes adults, via chat rooms and online gaming. Some adults may specifically target confused and vulnerable boys and young men in order to groom them for sexual abuse and exploitation. All children are at greater risk of abuse if they engage in sexualised discussion and sharing of images online, or if they go on to meet a stranger in person.

Missed warning signs – Those who work with adult prolific offenders have suggested that sexual abuse in childhood can be a factor which influences their early offending. These traumatic experiences, alongside things like domestic violence, can lead to drug abuse and subsequent crime in order to feed that addiction (shoplifting, burglary, drug dealing etc).

A case study – An adult male prolific offender was abused by male family members as a child. He was regularly missing as a child and his chaotic lifestyle had led to suicide attempts and violence. Warning signs of abuse were missed by the authorities meaning he was never treated as a victim or protected from harm. Despite coming into contact with agencies frequently, the sexual abuse he was suffering was never identified. Professionals recognise his mental health concerns are a result of this abuse and have contributed to his ongoing cycle of offending.

This raises an important consideration. Police and authorities dealing with youth offenders should question underlying factors about why they are offending or behaving anti-socially. If a teenage girl steals pregnancy tests from a pharmacy, or a teenage boy regularly goes missing from home and is reluctant to return, we should think about how that the child’s behaviour could be a sign that they are at risk of harm.

Offenders

In October 2013, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) published a National Problem Profile of CSE and CSA which identified key findings based on data from 41 police forces. They found that the overwhelming majority of CSA offenders were white males between the ages of 18 and 35. They also found that a high proportion of CSA offenders were unemployed, students or retired.

In the Force area, where identified, the offender profiles roughly matched the age profile of the national picture: Where occupations were recorded (76% of cases), these also matched the national picture. Offender profiles were also representative of the ethnic make-up of the Peninsula. As our communities become more diverse, consideration should be given to the specific needs, risks and vulnerabilities within minority communities.

The high number of offenders aged 18 to 25 may be explained by their close proximity in age to younger teenage victims. This may reflect the ‘inappropriate relationship’ model of abuse where a young adult engages in a relationship with a younger teenager. It is also important to consider that these figures are based on reported crimes. As sexual offences are widely under-reported, we only understand the profile of offenders who got caught. The actual profile of offenders could be vastly different from our current understanding. Older offenders could be more aware of authorities or may assert more power over the victim to discourage them from reporting a crime reported crimes.

Most of the prevention initiatives designed to strengthen young people’s ability to understand and make choices about healthy relationships are delivered during early secondary education, based on the victim age profile. From this analysis, reinforcing an understanding of the importance of consent and teaching older teenagers (16 to 19) about inappropriate relationships is important. Some young adults may not have considered the emotional and physical effects of sexual contact on younger partners. They may also be unaware of the life changing outcomes for offenders, such as registration as a sex offender and/or imprisonment.

Likely Locations

Known as ‘honey-pots’, these are locations where either young people congregate or where they can be easily accessed; they are often places with no parental supervision. People within these locations may be able to spot inappropriate behaviour. By engaging with local authorities they can help protect children from harm whilst away from the home.

Family holidays, corner shops, Night Time Economy, cinemas, arcades, alcohol outlets, parks, pubs, taxis, online, railway stations, schools, hotels & B&Bs, cafes, fairgrounds, home, shopping centres, takeaways, hookah bars, beaches, bus stations and skate parks.

It may be that: local park wardens have found children in the park at night; or the Forestry Commission has seen cars in isolated areas with young teenagers and adults; or it could be that door staff working in the night time economy have seen taxi drivers engaging underage girls in conversation. All these would be useful strands of information. They may provide the key piece in a ‘jigsaw puzzle’ that initiates an investigation and protects a child from harm.

Partnerships should consider the range of people, or agencies with powers or responsibilities in these type of environments, who could act as capable guardians if they understood more about the nature of abuse and exploitation, were able to interact with children when they perceived them to be at risk, and understood what to do when they are concerned. We also know that our offender profile includes some people who chose to work within these sectors because of the access to vulnerable people their roles gave them, so strengthening ways for other employees to express concern about unhealthy relationships is also important.

Barnardo’s Models for Child Sex Exploitation [1]

Three types:

  • Inappropriate relationships – older person with power and/or control over a young person.
  • The boyfriend model and peer exploitation – the perpetrator forces/coerces the victim to have sex with them and others in the peer group.
  • Organised / networked sexual exploitation or trafficking – young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced /coerced into sexual activity with multiple men.

What lessons were identified elsewhere? In the wake of high-profile child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Rotherham and Rochdale, a number of reports and independent inquiries have been published. Recommendations to prevent CSE and safeguard victims have been put forward, many of which are relevant nationally. [2]

[1] Puppet on a string: The urgent need to cut children free from sexual exploitation (2011)

 

[2] http://notinourcommunity.org/know-the-signs/

What issues or themes contribute to risk within Devon?

A number of key issues have been identified as contributing to risk in Devon.

The rural environment presents a host of issues that can contribute to a child’s vulnerability to CSA/CSE:

  • A lack of youth services, activities and transport in some places can contribute to anti-social behaviour and the use of drugs or legal highs. These are well-established risk-factors for CSA/CSE;
  • Austerity cuts in organised and supervised youth support can make it more challenging to identify the risk profile;
  • Children in isolated communities are more likely to have friends of varying ages or spend more time online;
  • Children may share cars with older teens and young adults who can drive if transport in the area is poor;
  • Children may be likely to stay out later or travel further from home if the perception is that the South West is a safe environment and that CSA/CSE does not happen here.
  • Devon receives a high number of children in care from other counties. Children who are ‘out of area placements’ may be at a higher risk of abuse and exploitation.
  • There are varied support networks and different approaches to proactive identification and support across Devon. Few agencies have common boundaries which can complicate inter-agency working. Agency partners may also not always be clear about who should take responsibility, particularly as any one case could involve a range of different locations. There is also disparity in how information is collected, analysed and disseminated by the myriad of agencies across the Peninsula. Despite the development of the Peninsula CSE Protocol, there is a risk of a ‘postcode lottery’, where service provision is better or worse depending on where you live.
  • The popularity of Devon and Cornwall as a tourist destination means that abuse can happen here and go undetected. Children may not have as much opportunity to report abuse outside of their normal environment (away from school/doctors/friends). Hotels and holiday accommodation may be used for organised exploitation, including temporary brothels.

Efforts underway to develop stronger reporting mechanisms and good relationships between partner agencies will make it easier to identify harm and keep children and young people safe.

Number of reported offences – 01/01/2015 to 31/03/2015 (326 crimes)
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary Area
Number of Reported Offencescse01-201415

Online Abuse

*Females the most common victim (9/1)

*Offender is usually male, though many are unidentified

*Offender is usually a complete stranger

 

Peer to Peer

*Females the most common victim (9/1)

*Offender is usually male

*Common lack of understanding around consent between peers (victims/

offenders/

authorities)

 

Intra-familial abuse

*Females the most common victim (7/3)

*More male victims than other abuse types

*Offender is usually *male

Offender may be blood relative or step-family/

family friend

 

CSE

*Difficult to identify context of exploitation

*Better recording methods needed

*Females likely to be the most common victim

*Males likely to be the most common offenders

 

Institutional Abuse

*Abuse where the victim is in a ‘looked after’ setting (children’s home, school, club etc)

*Not enough is understood about victims/

offenders

*Offenders can be adults in a position of trust or other children

 

Other CSA

*Reported CSA that did not fit other models e.g. stranger offences/ inappropriate relationships.

*Often inappropriate relationship between older male and younger female

*Also includes one off offences where the offender is a complete stranger to the victim

 

Types of Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation:

Online Abuse and Grooming

Based on a study of 326 recent crimes (01/01/2015 to 31/03/2015) and discussions with practitioners – Devon & Cornwall Police Area

 

Victim gender: Male 9% Female 88%

Offender gender: Male 56% Female 3% (41% unidentified)

*some victims and offenders were unidentified

Highest risk relationship types: Stranger (no prior association)

Online abuse and grooming can be varied. A common example is a child receiving a request from a stranger to become ‘friends’ or to have a conversation. The offender may push the conversation to become sexual and send indecent images to the child, or request them from the victim. Sometimes the offender may not be a stranger, but known to the victim through school or social circles. Most commonly though, the offender will be completely unknown to the victim, using a false name or online alias. They may opportunistically target children they come across online or carry out more in-depth searching to find a suitably vulnerable child to groom, exploit and abuse. Where the offender is a stranger to the victim, it makes identifying and investigating online abuse particularly challenging. This explains the high figure for unidentified offenders.

Crime data alone is unlikely to show the full scale of online abuse. It relies heavily on the child to report abuse or for parents to notice that something is wrong. Many children may not realise that the abuse they experience online is a crime as they have no physical contact. Also, many high-risk children may not have the appropriate parental support to educate them about internet safety. Some families may be less likely to identify and report instances of online abuse or grooming. A number of offence categories cover the various stages of this process and a new offence has been added to the Serious Crime Act 2015 that criminalises sexual communication, or an attempt to elicit sexual communication, by a person aged 18 or over with a child under 16.

Police working with child victims of CSA/CSE emphasised the speed at which abuse can escalate online and how quickly a child can be groomed into sharing indecent images or meeting an offender. It is well understood nationally that many CSE victims are initially approached online. At present, the Police do not accurately record how victims of physical/contact sexual abuse first met their offenders. Because of this, we do not fully understand how often children are being identified and groomed online before meeting offenders, where further abuse and exploitation takes place.

An emerging threat in this area is that of ‘sextortion’. This is where a child is groomed into sending indecent images of themselves to an offender. The offender then blackmails the victim into carrying out further acts online or meeting the offender for abuse. If the victim refuses, the offender will threaten to publish the images online or send them to friends and family members.

On-Line Safety

The East & Mid Devon INFORM on Social Media Group has continued to flourish over the last year.  Further CEOP training for staff working with children and young people is planned to follow on from training carried out during 2013/14.

The INFORM group promoted Safer Internet Day with many schools planning activities during the week around SID.  INFORM links closely with South West Grid For Learning who provide resources for teachers and parents and these are made readily available to all those with an interest via the group.

Peer to Peer Sexual Abuse

Based on a study of 326 recent crimes in Devon and Cornwall Police area (01/01/2015 to 31/03/2015)and discussions with practitioners.

Victim gender: Male 11 % Female 87%

Offender gender: Male 85% Female 7%

*some victims and offenders were unidentified

Highest risk relationship types: Peer (known to each other prior to abuse)

Peer to peer sexual abuse is any sexual abuse that takes place between children under 18. A study of recent crimes showed that abuse between children is common, forming over a third of all reported cases. Most cases featured children who were in roughly the same age group. However, a small minority featured wide age gaps, such as a teen abusing a child under 10.

A common model seen was of a teenage boy coercing a teenage girl (sometimes a girlfriend or friend who is younger than the offender). The victim would be pushed, emotionally or physically, into sexual activity before she was ready. Some victims remain confused after the abuse, believing that if they did not say no, then they must have consented, even though they didn’t want it to happen. Children may not fully understand the power of consent. They may also be unwilling to report friends or boyfriends/girlfriends to the Police if they believed they were just experimenting and it got out of hand.

It was also evident that some children (often boys) had been influenced by online porn. It was clear in these cases that the offender’s perception of what is normal was not based on a loving relationship of mutual consent. They persuaded their victims that ‘everyone does it like this’ and that it was normal if it hurt. This highlights the risk in teen relationships where there is a significant age gap. The younger person may not fully understand their choices.

This is likely to be an under reported area of abuse. There is a danger that child victims and the authorities may view an act of abuse as ‘experimenting’. Torbay Safeguarding Children Board wrote a serious case review into Operation MANSFIELD. Children between 13 and 15 in Torbay were being abused by teenagers and adults who were relatively close in age to their victims. A key finding was that authorities had viewed sexual activity as consensual if it was between peers. Authorities need to recognise that sexual activity without proper consent, even between peers, is sexual abuse.

Intra-Familial Sexual Abuse

Based on a study of 326 recent crimes in Devon and Cornwall Police Area (01/01/2015 to 31/03/2015) and discussions with practitioners

Victim gender: Male 31% Female 68%

Offender gender: Male 93% Female 5%

*some victims and offenders were unidentified

Highest risk relationship types: Blood relatives (but consider non-blood relatives and close family friends)

Intra-familial sexual abuse is used here to describe any type of sexual abuse that occurs within the family environment. It may be committed at home or on family holidays. Offenders could be parents, siblings, aunties and uncles or grand-parents. They could equally be step-parents, boyfriends/girlfriends of family members or close family friends. A study of recent crimes showed this was common. It made up nearly a fifth of reported sex crimes against children within the Peninsula.

Non-blood relatives and close family friends made up the largest group of offenders. However, operational experience suggests that children may be more able or willing to report non-immediate family members than they are a mother or father. Practitioners have also identified examples where abuse by close family friends sometimes happened at the invitation of a member of the family. It may be that victims of abuse by step-parents or family friends are already victims of sexual abuse from close family members. A common model seen is of teen girls being abused by a step-father (often a short-term boyfriend of the mother). What is not fully understood is whether the offenders opportunistically abused the children, or if they ‘groomed’ vulnerable mothers with the specific intention of abusing children within the family.

There were also a notably higher proportion of male victims compared to the other abuse types. Most other types of abuse showed around 1 in 10 male victims, whereas Intra-familial abuse was around 3 in 10. This poses some questions: are boys more susceptible to Intra-familial abuse? Or is reporting more accurate in this area and 3 in 10 is a realistic figure for other types of abuse? Only better reporting and engagement with families and victims could answer this.

Around 11 million tourists enter the Peninsula each year. We have a responsibility to protect these people from harm, as well as our permanent residents. But it is often difficult for children to exit dangerous situations or to report abuse whilst on family holidays. They may not have the support networks usually available to them (school nurses, GPs, friends etc.). It can be challenging for Police and other agencies to get sufficient background information about the victims or offenders to make an accurate risk assessment or to understand the dynamics of the situation. Following up investigations and enquiries once the family have left the Peninsula also presents challenges, such as obtaining background information from other Forces.

If intra-familial abuse is left undiscovered and unresolved there is likely to be long-term effects on the victim – more likely to lead to life of crime, mental health problems and drug/alcohol issues – even repeat the abuse on their children.

Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is perhaps the most difficult area of abuse to understand. It is often hard to understand whether or not a child who was abused was done so as part of a wider exploitative context. Using the ACPO accepted definition of CSE, the crimes must have taken place in ‘exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities’. It is not always clear whether or not a rape or sexual assault took place against this backdrop, so we may miss opportunities for identifying CSE.

No operation in the Peninsula could be said to fit any of the three Barnardos models perfectly. Sometimes an operation has seen elements of one, two, or all three models. Identifying and investigating CSE is complex and challenging. These models provide us with a better understanding of how children can be exploited and what offender/victim relationships may look like. But authorities should view these models with care, understanding that they are not rigidly distinct from each other.

Numerous studies have shown that drug supply and drug abuse are commonly associated with child sexual exploitation. All agencies investigating a drugs problem should always consider the safeguarding of children. Although children may appear to be willing participants or offenders, we cannot overlook their vulnerabilities. Young offenders should be properly assessed to understand why they were offending and what vulnerabilities they have.

The best way to understand the full picture of child sexual exploitation is with the aid of good quality information and intelligence. This may come from a range of sources including: Neighbourhood Beat Managers and PCSOs; Police investigations (ensuring that any useful information around crime investigations is also submitted as intelligence); victim care; prisons; and agency partners such as schools, social workers, health professionals and care homes. Partners should understand the value of raising awareness around a child’s risk of abuse. However small, one piece of information may provide the key piece of the jigsaw puzzle that helps identify networks of offenders and protect children from harm.

Rather than reacting to crimes already committed, intelligence can be used to assess risks and prioritise targets. Officers and partner agencies can then task pro-active operations, targeting offenders and safeguard victims before they are subjected to abuse. This may be through Police investigations, or through interaction with agency partners and appropriate child safety action plans. Monitoring of child imagery on the web at a national scale might reveal local issues.

Exeter CSP has work planned with a number of sectors such as the taxi trade, pubs and clubs and hoteliers to raise awareness to CSE and modern slavery.

Institutional Sexual Abuse

Institutional sexual abuse is any form of sexual abuse where the victim is involved with an institutional environment. These children are vulnerable to a range of offenders including adults in a position of trust, other children in the same environment, or children and adults outside of this setting. Examples of these institutional environments are children’s homes, hospitals, schools, holiday camps, after-school groups, religious groups or sports clubs. The unique factor is that the child is in an environment where they should be cared for by an adult in a position of trust, rather than a parent or family member.

A prevalent model of abuse and exploitation in Devon exists around children in care. Teenagers in the care system (children’s homes and foster care) often have little or no close family support. They are more likely to seek affection from whoever is willing to offer it. This vulnerability can be exploited by older people who initially offer friendship, money and gifts. Many are offered free samples of drugs and are led into a world of drug abuse and sexual exploitation. This abuse can then lead into a cycle of regularly going missing, drug addiction, debt, petty crime and further sexual abuse and exploitation.

Very little crime data is held on institutional abuse compared to other abuse types. This type of abuse is likely to be under reported, or when crimes do occur, we do not accurately and consistently record the child’s situation. Not enough information is shared from institutional environments. This could be because of internal reporting processes that do not fully understand how and where information could and should be shared with partners. Institutions sometimes deal with issues ‘in house’. This means the wider picture around a child’s vulnerability is fragmented, with lots of people or agencies knowing a little about an issue, but no one understanding the full scale of the problem.

Children being passed between care environments pose a further difficulty around information sharing. One children’s home may not properly communicate the risks and vulnerabilities around a child with the new home. It may be that they fear the child being turned away because the new home cannot adequately manage the risk. This can lead to the most ‘at risk’ children having the least amount of protection and little access to the support they need. Local authorities need to work with commercial care environments and educate and incentivise them to communicate risks.

Devon receives a large proportion of ‘out of area placements’ – children in care moved from one geographic area to another due to their high risk of abuse. It can be challenging when a full background of the child’s risk assessment is not provided. It is important that Police practitioners understand who the ‘out of area’ children are, so they can offer the correct care and attention based on their unique needs.

1,162 from Devon 448 from outside Devon 39%

It may be easy to think that certain types of abuse do not happen in the county. Children being removed from larger cities to the area may bring with them a greater risk of varied types of abuse, otherwise not seen. For example, a child involved in gang-culture in London may be a victim of gang related CSE. They may have been moved to the Peninsula to remove them from this environment. Police and local authorities should address the child’s unique vulnerability and provide tailored support to remove them from the cycle of gang-based sexual abuse and crime.

Other Types of Sexual Abuse

Other types of sexual abuse occur in Devon that are not covered by the previous models. A study of recent crimes showed a huge variety of offences. Two further themes emerged from these areas:

Inappropriate Relationships

Many recent crimes showed teenagers being abused by people just a few years older than them. Not to be confused with the Barnardos model of child sexual exploitation, these were instances of abuse where there was no clear exploitative element. Usually they involved teenage girls in a relationship with a young man of 18 to 20. Though the relationship itself may have been mutual, very often the act of abuse itself was not consensual. The younger victim may have felt obliged to carry out a sexual act in order to please the older person, even if they didn’t feel willing or ready.

Stranger offences

These were a small number of instances where a complete stranger to the victim might approach a child and carry out some form of sexual abuse. Recent crimes showed a huge variety, from inappropriate sexual comments through to unwanted groping and rape. The unique factor with all these cases was that the offender and victim were completely unknown to each other and no form of grooming or exploitation had taken place.

It is still important to properly record these one off instances within the context of child sexual exploitation. The offender may be carrying out abuse like this on a regular basis and, with access to a particularly vulnerable child, may seek to exploit and abuse them on a long term basis. The location too may be a hot spot for offenders looking to groom and abuse children.

Extracted from:  Devon & Cornwall Police – Child Sexual Abuse/Exploitation – Peninsula Overview June 2015

Modern Slavery

Modern slavery is a complex crime. It can involve a series of different offences, happening at different points in time and in different geographic areas. The complexity usually means that more than one offender is involved; sometimes fulfilling specific functions or roles within the ‘business’. It is often a lucrative enterprise, in which multiple victims are exploited either in parallel circumstances, or one after the other.

The new 2015 Modern Slavery Act consolidates offences and increases the penalties for this type of criminal behaviour considerably, to life imprisonment. Slavery is deemed to be forcing a person into servitude for no or little pay, with restricted freedom of movement, in substandard working and/or living conditions. Slavery does not necessarily involve the forced movement of people, or the crossing of borders – indeed many people rescued from slavery situations within the UK so far have been British nationals. The slavery can take a variety of different forms, the most recognised of which are:

  • Sexual exploitation
  • Labour exploitation
  • Organ harvesting
  • Forced criminality
  • Domestic servitude

The Act also includes UK human trafficking offences – these involve arranging or facilitating the movement of victims (into, out of, or around the United Kingdom) with a view to exploiting them. Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling, as the aim is not solely to illegally enter a country, but the ongoing exploitation and control of a person once they have arrived. The scale of modern slavery in the UK is unknown.

This Act is the first legislation of its kind within Europe, and is designed to send a clear signal from the UK Parliament to offenders across the world, that the UK will not tolerate abuse or exploitation of humans for another’s gain.

The act has created a statutory duty for specified public bodies (e.g. police, local authorities, Home Office) to notify the National Crime Agency of potential victims of slavery, through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Previously it has only been statutory to make referrals about children.

 The national picture of modern slavery?

  • More women are identified as potential victims of modern slavery than men.
  • Between 1/3 & 1/4 of victims identified since 2009 were children.
  • The majority of potential victims of modern slavery are
  • 2/5 of modern slavery reported by potential victims is sexual exploitation.
  • 1/10 of modern slavery is domestic servitude.
  • A high proportion of victims are UK nationals indicating that not all victims of modern slavery are trafficked across a border.
  • 1/3 of modern slavery is for labour exploitation including criminal exploitation.
  • The scale of victims is unknown. The Home Office estimates there could be between 10,000 to 13,000 victims.
Modern Slavery – National Picture
Country Of origin & main slavery type modslave01
Reported exploitation type  of potential victims from the top 10 countries as reported to NRM in 2013 (Percentages) modslave02

In 2013:

  • Majority of potential victims from Eastern European EU countries were adult men reporting labour exploitation.
  • Majority of potential victims from Albania and Nigeria were women reporting sexual exploitation.
  • Majority of UK national potential victims were girls reporting sexual exploitation.

Labour exploitation

Labour exploitation can occur in any line of work, but is more likely to be seen in the following:

  • Low skilled, manual work
  • Work requiring only basic language skills
  • Seasonal work
  • Casual / temporary work which can be paid ‘cash in hand’
  • Work which is seen as ‘demeaning’
  • Un-unionised or unregulated industries
  • Exploitation is not always by the employer.

Exploited workers can be working in legitimate businesses, but their wages are being taken from them by controllers.

Vulnerable people tend to be targeted for recruitment who are/have:

  • Out of work
  • Homeless
  • Mental health problems
  • Alcoholics
  • Drug addicts

Alcohol dependency is likely to be preferred by exploiters over drug dependency as it is a cheaper habit to feed and lower risk.

Recruitment of Eastern European workers is often via the internet: they are offered a package which includes transportation and accommodation. Others are approached in their villages, or enticed to the UK by other victims – one female worker was told she would lose her job if she did not convince others to come to the UK.

The peninsula has many locations offering this type of work:

  • Farms / agricultural / flower picking / food preparation
  • Harbours / fishing ports
  • Restaurants / takeaways
  • Car washes

Control is often created through the provision of shared accommodation tied to the work. This could be within:

  • Caravans
  • Sheds
  • Shipping containers
  • Houses of multiple occupancy
  • Apartments connected to place of work
  • Vans
  • Basements / Garages
  • Living conditions are often overcrowded, or very basic, presenting public health or fire risks.

Victims incur a ‘debt’ for the cost of travelling to the UK and being given work, which may last long beyond the actual cost being repaid. Exploiters take advantage of their lack of understanding of UK practice and add ‘charges’ for services which are actually free. The exploiters often control their bank account so they have no access to their own money. This also means they are likely to be victims of exploitation through benefit fraud.

Vulnerable people: traveller community

Individuals who live within travelling communities can be subject to modern slavery as either victims or offenders. There is evidence that some traveller communities are involved in labour exploitation. Their regular movement from one authority area to another makes it easier for them to avoid detection of any illegal activity.

Should suspicious activity be noticed, the ability for travellers to move quickly throughout the country presents a challenge and calls for strong cross border working relationships and collaborative working. For travellers who become victims of modern slavery, this regular movement can make it difficult for agencies to identify their vulnerability and safeguard them.

There have been three major police investigations involving the exploitation of adult men by traveller groups in the UK. These involved 19 victims, all mostly British, recruited in the UK. They were often unemployed, homeless and alcoholics. They were promised good pay and somewhere to live. They were then exploited for long hours, with no pay and substandard living conditions.

The trafficking and exploitation of British victims is not restricted to the UK. A Swedish anti-trafficking report from 2010 found a number of cases of “British and Irish tarmac and paving layers in Sweden”. Key indicators of where a travelling community might be trafficking and/or exploiting slaves are as follows:

  • Trailers/caravans which are of an inferior condition which are kept separate from the better quality homes;
  • Males carrying out work such as cleaning caravans or preparing food, which travellers usually consider women’s work;
  • Men carrying out manual work, such as laying driveways, for reduced prices, while not dressed in appropriate clothing;
  • Being malnourished.

The importance of partner agencies that have contact with the travelling community recognising the signs is vital e.g. Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue, environment agency and local authorities.

Devon has a number of long-term sites used by travellers and two ‘temporary acceptance’ sites. In 2014 there were 33 unofficial sites occupied by travellers passing through Devon. The largest group consisted of 20 Irish adults and 25 children; the second largest group were Romany gypsies. Of all the groups seen passing through Devon, one has raised concerns of possible slavery.

Vulnerable people: street homeless

Homeless people are more likely to be vulnerable, at risk of being targeted. This means that locations where homeless people gather carry significant risk. In Devon provision for homeless people tends to be provided in the larger towns and cities, rather than in rural areas. These services are often provided by local charities and churches and run on a small-scale for specific local areas through volunteers. It is important that staff and volunteers interacting with the homeless community at these locations are aware of the potential risks and the threat of homeless people being targeted. There are examples of locations elsewhere in the UK where ‘target hardening’ approaches have created a more difficult environment for recruiters to operate -soup kitchens, night shelters, day centres, hostels, food banks and street sleeping locations.

Vulnerable people: missing persons

In 2014-15 there were 3,179 people reported missing to the police in Devon and Cornwall. Some of these people went missing more than once, so there were 7,435 missing episodes recorded in the same time period. A person is only recorded as ‘missing’ (as opposed to ‘absent’) if their disappearance is out of character, or if there is concern that they may be at risk of harm to themselves or others, or that they may be a victim of a crime. People who regularly go missing may be more vulnerable and therefore at risk of being targeted for exploitation. Many of the people rescued from labour exploitation within the UK had at some point been reported as long term missing people. Males tend to go missing in Devon & Cornwall slightly more often than females – 55% males compared to 45% females.

Vulnerable people: asylum seekers and refugees

Since 2000, Plymouth elected to accept asylum seekers being dispersed there by the Home Office – These people come to the UK in search of safety, but their prior experiences as well as the experiences they face when they arrive here make them vulnerable to all types of exploitation. They are not allowed to work while in the asylum process and although supported by the National Asylum support service, have to live on a very small sum of money. They are given accommodation in houses of multiple-occupancy which may not be properly maintained. They often face abuse and racism. They may not feel able to report any of these issues as they fear it will be detrimental to their application for asylum. They may also have developed a fear of authorities through their previous experiences. Once the asylum seekers have been here over a year and are still waiting for a decision, they may be granted permission to work (with some restrictions). Historically this has been at locations such as food factories where they are predominantly used on production and packing lines. This is not restricted just to Plymouth, they may be employed in other parts of Devon and Cornwall, which are within commuting distance.

Domestic Servitude

Domestic servitude is possibly the most difficult aspect of modern slavery to identify. As of May 2015, there has only been one police identified case of suspected domestic servitude locally and this was part of a much larger modern slavery investigation involving labour exploitation, benefit fraud and people trafficking. One reason it is difficult to identify victims, is that if they are kept as domestic slaves, they may not be permitted to leave their accommodation and so would not come to the attention of neighbours, public services, authorities etc. Also, the offenders are often involved in all stages of the process – recruitment, transportation and exploitation – so there are fewer offenders involved in the operation. Additionally, victims may not recognise that they are victims or they may not come forward due to feelings of fear or shame. Identifying potential victims is a problem in all parts of the country and the number of potential victims of domestic servitude referred to the NRM have been very small. Of these, the majority in 2013 were women and Nigeria was the most common country of origin. In the sole Devon and Cornwall case referred to above, the victim was male and of Czech origin. The National Strategic Assessment for 2013-5 found:

  • 86% of domestic servitude victims were female;
  • 78% were adults;
  • The most prevalent country of origin was Nigeria, closely followed by the Philippines;
  • Domestic servitude is more likely to be facilitated by individuals and less likely to be linked to organised criminality than other forms of exploitation;
  • Some potential victims have been recruited through an agent in the Middle East;
  • Potential victims are brought to the UK for work, education or the promise of a better life;
  • There is limited information about transportation methods or the use of fraudulent documents;
  • Some victims have their passports taken from them, are not allowed to leave the property and have restricted contact with their family;
  • Some victims report threats of violence or death, being beaten regularly, and some are raped.

Sexual Exploitation

This is another difficult area because you need to have a clear distinction between individuals working willingly as prostitutes, which is not in itself an offence, and people being forced or coerced into it, which is exploitative. Mostly women are exploited but there are some men as well. Often they will say that they are willing participants, when that is not actually the case. There are some nationalities that have been identified as more likely to be exploited: Asian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Eastern European, Polish, Romanian, Thai and British.

Suspected offenders are primarily male but not exclusively: there are suspicions of female offenders running brothels and escort agencies etc. These may be former victims who have been ‘promoted’ to Madam status or they may simply be exploiting others for their own gain. Females were also suspected of being involved in grooming younger females and supplying drugs to them. Of the suspected offenders, the following nationalities or ethnicities have been mentioned: Albanian, Asian, British, Chinese, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Somalian and White European.

One indicator of organised sexual exploitation is the movement of victims from place to place. This involves finding temporary accommodation to act as a brothel. Devon can provide an ideal location for this as it has many hotels, motels, holiday lets, B&Bs, caravan sites, etc.

There is some evidence that ‘legitimate’ businesses may be being used as a front to cover up prostitution or related activity, for example:

  • Cash based or service businesses being used to launder money from drug dealing and prostitution;
  • Restaurants, shops and massage parlours being used as brothels behind the scenes;
  • Businesses which import or move goods from overseas also trafficking girls for prostitution.

A child under 18 years old should never be labelled as a prostitute – they should be considered a potential victim of Child Sexual Exploitation.

On Friday 25 September 2015 The Police Chief Constable will be co-hosting a modern slavery conference in partnership with the Catholic Bishop of Plymouth, the Anglican Bishop of Exeter and the Chief Executives of Plymouth City Council, Devon County Council and Torbay Council.

Source: Extracted from “Modern Slavery Overview” – Devon & Cornwall Police

Exeter CSP has work planned with a number of sectors such as the taxi trade, pubs and clubs and hoteliers to raise awareness to CSE and modern slavery.

Fraud

Devon & Somerset Trading Standards Service is responsible for enforcing a wide range of legislation which governs the trading environment, as well as providing advice and support to businesses within Devon and Somerset. Our areas of responsibility range from investigating doorstep crime and preventing food fraud, to ensuring high standards of farm animal welfare and ensuring that petroleum and explosives are stored safely. We work in conjunction with a wide range of various partner agencies, including the Police and district councils.

A significant amount of the legislation we deal with includes the investigation of criminal offences.

For more information, please see our website.

Fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, which is often financial, over another person. (Action Fraud)

There are many words used to describe fraud: Scam, con, swindle, extortion, sham, double-cross, hoax, cheat, ploy, ruse, hoodwink or confidence trick.

The main legislation is the Fraud Act 2006, which covers activities including:

·         Making a false representation /statement (verbally or in writing), or

·         Failing to disclose information when you are legally obliged to do so, or

·         Abusing your position, when you are expected to safeguard the financial interests of someone else.

Along with Trading Standards, Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) are both key agencies in combatting fraud. They are hosted by the City of London Police, the lead UK police force for fraud investigation. They take fraud reports from the public on behalf of police forces across the country, and provide collated intelligence to police forces and other agencies for further action.

In the year ending in March 2015, they dealt with 230,630 reports of fraud from across the UK – this was a 9% increase on the previous year[1].

Action Fraud reported that the top 5 fraud types affecting Devon residents in the period November 2014 to March 2015 were[i]:

  • Online shopping and auctions                                 381
  • Computer Software Service Fraud 380
  • Cheque, Plastic Card and Online Banking 319
  • Other advance fee frauds 274
  • Other fraud 200

These figures are separate to the reports that we have received directly – please see the scams section below for further details.

Types of Fraud

 Fraud is linked to a wide range of activities – from employees defrauding businesses, to individuals making false benefits claims, to false accounting by businesses. However, Trading Standards’ main focus is on frauds where consumers are targeted by traders, or businesses are targeted by other businesses.

Current key areas of fraud work for Trading Standards include:

  • Doorstep Crime
  • Scams targeting consumers
  • Food fraud

Doorstep Crime

Fraud allegations are often linked to doorstep crime – where often vulnerable individuals are approached by cold callers at their home, who offer to provide goods or services that are of poor quality. Often, the victim is pressurised into the work or is overcharged, or both. Examples of fraud include be the caller falsely telling the victim that their property is in a poor state of repair, or failing to tell the victim about their legal rights to a cooling off period.

During the period June 2014 – May 2015, we received 94 complaints and intelligence reports regarding traders who had approached consumers at their houses and not issued appropriate cancellation rights when entering into contracts. The total sum lost by consumers in these incidents was £93,000. In many of these cases poor quality work had been carried out, and overcharging had taken place. The main contract types involved were driveways, roofing and gardening.

 

Case study 1

A Devon plumber was sentenced to two years in prison for grossly overcharging vulnerable consumers for poor quality work and materials. He also gave false information as to the number of hours that he had worked, and falsely claimed that he was a member of a trade association.

Case study 2

A Devon builder was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for offences including targeting a vulnerable pensioner and fraudulently overcharging her for poor quality roofing work. He was also sentenced for money laundering, as he had concealed fraudulently gained income in his mother’s bank accounts.

 

Through the recently completed secondment of a police officer from Devon and Cornwall Police, we have enhanced our investigative capabilities, as well as enhancing our intelligence sharing. We have a number of officers who have received additional training, to enable them to more effectively respond to “live” incidents – often in conjunction with local police officers.

The secondment also helped to ensure that police officers are more aware of the offences that can be committed in such incidents, and has helped us to work with them in a more joined up way. A number of incidents that we deal with involve organised crime groups and criminals who travel across county borders to commit offences. We increasingly carry out investigations with other police forces, Trading Standards Services and Regional Trading Standards “Scambuster” teams.

We have also carried out project work with banks, to make them aware of the warning signs to look out for – that their customers may be being targeted by “rogue” traders or scams. We have subsequently noted a number of calls in recent months, where banks have made direct contact with us or the Police, to advise of ongoing incidents.

As well as investigating offences after they have occurred, we continue to carry out a significant amount of proactive preventative work with the public.

  • We have a wealth of material on our website helping people to avoid becoming victims of scams or “rogue” doorstep traders.
  • We have given talks to a number of relevant groups and organisations, such as Citizens Advice and the Women’s Institute.
  • We have continued to publicise regular warnings by press releases, social media, and via BBC Radio Devon that individuals should not be rushed into entering into contracts with unsolicited doorstep callers.
  • We have distributed a large number of “No Cold Caller” stickers for consumers to display in their homes.
  • We have given training to relevant partners, such as social workers, to empower them to confidently talk to their clients about the subject.
  • Our Buy With Confidence scheme is now also working in partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Victim Care Scheme. This helps victims of crime to use vetted and trusted businesses to put right any problems that they have experienced.

Scams

The National Trading Standards Scams Team estimate that over £3.5 billion is lost by consumers to mass marketing scams every year[2]. All types of scams involve fraud, and often target the most vulnerable in society. They operate by a variety of means, increasingly including the internet (see eCrime section, below)

Scams come in a variety of guises, with two of the most harmful being:

  • “Investment” scams – usually initiated by phone-calls
    • these often include supposed investments in items including commodities or precious metals. In the past year, we have had two reports from consumers who lost £100,000 each to individual scams.
    • We anticipate that these scams will continue to pose a high threat, especially as recent law changes mean that individuals are now able to access their pension pots and withdraw significant amounts of money as upfront sums.
    • The City of London Police lead Operation Broadway, which works with Trading Standards to carry out disruption activities against the “boiler rooms” that often perpetrate this type of scam.
  • “Prize draw” and lottery scams – usually initiated by post
    • Consumers are told that they have won a lottery or competition (that they have not entered), but need to pay a fee to claim their “prize”.
    • Or, they may buy goods from a catalogue, after being told that it will help them to win a cash prize. The goods are delivered, but the prize is never forthcoming. In many cases, consumers buy more and more goods, in the hope that they will eventually receive the promised prize.
    • We are aware of consumers who have lost tens of thousands of pounds to such scams.

We received over 1,500 complaints from Devon and Somerset consumers about scams between June 2014 and May 2015. The total sum lost by these consumers was approximately £900,000.

However, this is only part of the picture – as these are the victims that have made themselves known to us. There are a significant number of people who either do not realise that they are victims, or are too embarrassed to come forward. We are making significant efforts to also protect this silent majority.

As part of an investigation a couple of years ago, a police force came across details of a list of potential scam victims. This list contained details of thousands of individuals from across the country, which was believed to be being sold between companies wanting to perpetrate scams. The concept was that this information was valuable, as it would enable scam perpetrators to target their pitches towards susceptible people.

Partially as a result of this, the National Trading Standards Scams Team was created – to investigate mass marketing scams, and coordinate Trading Standards’ efforts in protecting the public. We work in partnership with them and have been provided with details of over 3,000 people in Devon and Somerset, who are believed to be targets of scammers. We have written to all 3,000 individuals with advice, and contact details for further support.

We have also committed to making personal visits this year to at least 70 higher risk victims, to offer them personally tailored support. We continue to receive details of more individuals on a monthly basis from the National Scams Team, which we prioritise, to ensure that we provide personal support to those who need it most. We are working with colleagues in the Police, Adult Social Care, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue and other partner organisations to provide an effective network of joined up support.

A large number of scams that we deal with originate overseas, making enforcement action more complex. One of our most important roles is to help prevent people becoming victims in the first place, by providing the public with appropriate support and advice. We have carried out a significant amount of proactive prevention work within the community, which has been praised by a number of partner agencies and other local authorities. Our work has included:

  • Creating an online scams awareness e-learning package on our website – for use by the public and partner agencies. We hope that this will help our scams awareness message to spread, as people become more confident in supporting their friends and relatives.
  • Posting regular advice and scam warnings by our Facebook and Twitter feeds. One tweet that we posted in August 2015 regarding our scams e-learning package received over 1,300 views.
  • Giving talks and presentations to a range of partner agencies, interested groups and organisations.
  • Providing training to Adult Social Care staff, to help them to spot warning signs given by their clients.
  • Providing enhanced training to a number of our staff to enable them to provide direct one to one support to our most high risk victims – to help them to break the cycle of falling victim to scams. We have managed to return cash and cheques to a number of these people, which were intercepted before reaching the scam companies.
  • Devon and Cornwall Police has also been a key partner in this work – in particular, their officers in North Devon carried out a significant number of advice visits to vulnerable consumers.
  • Providing scams awareness information and posters to charity shops, to display in their premises.
  • We will continue to expand our awareness message, for example by providing material to GP surgeries, to help them to raise awareness with their patients.

Food Fraud

One of our priorities is to prevent fraud in the food chain. Ensuring the true provenance of food “from farm to fork” has always been a key aspect of our work – it involves aspects of food safety, as well as financial fraud against the public and honest traders. The “horsemeat scandal” in 2013 brought to clear public focus the importance of ensuring that people know where their food comes from.

We have always carried out targeted sampling work at manufacturing and retail levels to ensure that food businesses do not make false claims about their food – such as it being “local” when it is not, do not make false claims about ingredients, or indeed falsely claim that meat is from a particular species. We also carry out farm visits to ensure that livestock are correctly identified, and are traceable at all stages through the food chain. If left unchecked, companies who make false claims can make significant financial gains over honest competitors, as well as misleading the public.

As a result of the Elliott Review into food fraud, in 2015 the Food Standards Agency set up a new national Food Crime Unit. We work with them, along with our Environmental Health colleagues and the Police, to disrupt and deal with any alleged illegal activity. An emerging issue across the country, is that of unauthorised slaughter of livestock, with the meat entering the human food chain. This activity is also linked to livestock theft and poaching. We will continue to work with our partners to share intelligence and robustly deal with this issue.

 

Scams have been identified as an emerging issue and are now a priority for the East & Mid Devon CSP. Working with Police Officers and the Trading Standards staff information and stickers to prevent cold calling at properties have been widely distributed. In the next 12 months we are working to raise awareness of the many different types of scams.

Cyber Crime/e-Crime

eCrime is becoming an increasingly important aspect of Trading Standards work. In previous years, it was more straightforward to track individuals and traders who committed offences, as activities often took place at known physical premises. For example, the most prevalent method of selling counterfeit goods was via boot sales and markets. Scams were also mainly perpetrated either by phone, or by post.

 

What is “eCrime”?

In Trading Standards terms, business and consumer facing crime committed using the internet, email or mobile phone technology as the delivery method. Examples of criminal activity include:

·         Copycat websites designed to fool you into believing they are government/banking  sites.

·         Sale of counterfeit goods via social media.

·         Unsolicited emails advising of “wins” in non-existent lotteries.

“Cyber Crime” also has a wider definition – which includes activities such as computer hacking, distributing computer viruses and distributing illegal explicit material.  These matters are primarily dealt with other agencies such as the Police, and are not covered in this section.

However, with the advent of the internet, social media, and a vast array of internet enabled devices, offences can now be more easily committed at a distance. For example, the majority of counterfeit goods issues that we deal with are now sales of items via the internet – via social media profiles and internet auction sites. This can pose difficulties when tracing the true identity and location of the seller – who may be based overseas. Consumers also struggle to obtain redress, for this reason.

As mentioned in the “Fraud” section, scams now use the internet as a main delivery method. It is very easy and inexpensive to create a website, and to attempt to gain significant amounts of money from consumers over a short space of time. It is also straightforward to make a website appear that a trader is based in the UK, whilst actually being based abroad. Significant enforcement difficulties are posed when trying to deal with scams that originate abroad. One of the most effective methods of dealing with them is disruption – by a combination of getting individual websites taken down where possible, along with issuing warnings to the public.

In 2014, Citizens Advice received over 5,000 complaints from across the UK about “copycat” websites. Between June 2014 and May 2015, we received over 100 complaints from consumers in Devon and Somerset about this subject. These sites are designed to confuse consumers by imitating official government websites – such as applying for passports, tax discs, driving licences or European Health Insurance Cards. If they use the copycat site the consumer ends up paying a fee for a service that will have been cheaper, or free, if they had gone direct to the Government’s own website. There is also the risk that consumers will have given data away that could potentially be used for identity fraud against them in the future. Concerted action was taken by National Trading Standards and the Police to close down a number of these websites, and to remove them from internet search engine listings.

Between June 2014 and May 2015, we received over 250 complaints about “free trial” scams. Consumers respond to adverts for “free trials” of products – such as beauty and slimming products. They give their bank details in order to pay a small postage and packaging charge. However, in the small print, it says that they will be charged up to £100 a month, by continuous payment authority, if they do not cancel by a set date and return the goods. Often, the goods need to be returned to an address abroad (where the companies are often based), and the consumer needs a returns number that is practically impossible to obtain.

Goods can also be advertised which do not actually exist. One example is the non-existent car sale scam. We regularly receive around 3 complaints a month where a consumer has purchased a car from an online advert, without actually seeing the vehicle first. The scammers also give the consumer details of a reputable local business; to try to give an air of legitimacy to the transaction. They pay away funds to the seller by a means outside of any payment protection schemes, and then discover that the vehicle does not actually exist and they have lost their money.

We also receive regular complaints about phishing emails and telephone calls – where contact is made with consumers, trying to dupe them into revealing their bank details or account passwords. The approach will claim to be from the consumer’s bank, or another official body. We received 100 complaints about these between June 2014 and May 2015. Again, these complaints will often only have been from people who spotted that it was a scam and did not become a victim. The true scale of victims may well be far higher.

Due to the increasing prevalence of internet enabled crime affecting Trading Standards’ area of work, the National Trading Standards eCrime Team was set up in 2013. This is a national team, which exists to carry out regional and national scale investigations, and coordinate the activities of local Trading Standards Services in this area.

This year we participated in Operation Jasper, which was nationally coordinated action targeted at sellers of counterfeit items on Facebook. We have also begun training three of our own officers to have a particular specialism in eCrime work, and have started to invest in equipment to assist them in this role. They will provide advice and expertise to the rest of our colleagues, and assist in investigations which have an eCrime element. They have built links with the National Trading Standards eCrime team, and with colleagues at Devon and Cornwall Police. They are also about to undergo specialist training at the College of Policing.

Over the coming year, we will look to further develop our expertise and investigative capability, and spread appropriate warning messages to the public about scams and counterfeit goods. We will also carry out proactive work to disrupt the sale of counterfeit goods on social media, and take appropriate action against offenders. One key method that we currently use are our social media channels – our Facebook and Twitter feeds have over 1,700 followers between them, and our messages are frequently reposted on other social media feeds (which often have large followings of their own). We also have a wealth of information on our website, as well as links to specialist material from a number of partner agencies and organisations.

[1] http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/datasets-and-tables/index.html?pageSize=50&sortBy=none&sortDirection=none&newquery=crime+statistics&content-type=Reference+table&content-type=Dataset

[2] http://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/work-areas/scams-team/

Mental Health

Mental health has been flagged by the Peninsula Crime Analysts Network as a potential problem as some funding and support in this area is being gradually reduced. Mental health issues can create both victims and perpetrators of crime. Increasingly the Police are often in the front line of dealing with mental health patients and, although training is improving, they are not mental health professionals and the cells can be unsuitable for housing patients.

The relationship between crime and mental health is complex. Individuals who experience mental health needs may also experience other confounding factors, including substance misuse, domestic violence, homelessness and being in the criminal justice system. Devon has completed needs assessments around many of these areas that look at the national and local evidence for each in more detail and highlight areas of need and also make recommendations where necessary. These are all available on the Devon Health and Wellbeing website[1] . The following charts are taken from that website:

[1] http://www.devonhealthandwellbeing.org.uk

Homelessness
Devon Health Audit – NHS Devon Public Health Intelligence Team – Homelessness Audit 2011 – 259 Respondents
Expressed Mental Health Need mentalhlth01

 

Mortality Rates By Suicide & Injury Undetermined
Health & Social Care Information Centre –  based on ONS Mortality data – 2008-2010
Deaths from Suicide or Injury Undetermined Direct Aged Standardised Rate per 100,000 mentalhlth02

 

Clients in Contact with Mental Health services
Devon Partnership Trust  – Rate per 10,000 population aged 16 and above – 2011-12
In contact with Mental Health Services – rate per 10,000 population aged 16 and above mentalhlth03

 

Hospital Admissions for Self-harm
Secondary Uses Service Commissioning  – Rate per 100,000 population – 2008-12
Hospital Admissions by Direct Aged Standardised Rate per 100,000 mentalhlth04

Substance misuse is usual rather than the exception among people with severe mental health problems and the relationship between the two is complex (DoH 2002). The combination of substance misuse and mental health issues in an individual is commonly referred to as “dual diagnosis”, though in most circumstances there are more than just these two issues.

The relationship between problem drug use and crime is also complex. Even so, all the evidence indicates that problem drug users are responsible for a large percentage of acquisitive crime, such as shoplifting and burglary.[1] There are also strong links to other types of crime, in particular violent crime.

Various studies have reported a link between mental health and domestic violence and abuse. Many women and children living with, or fleeing domestic abuse will have some form of mental health need. Abuse can contribute to, and exacerbate these issues as well as cause them.[2] The mental health needs of perpetrators are complex. Perpetrators frequently have mental health needs and may have been victims of abuse themselves. It is important that perpetrators are appropriately assessed to ensure that they are suitable for intensive long-term therapies. Poor quality programmes can be harmful and may give perpetrators the ‘excuse’ to perpetuate violence rather than break the cycle.

Greater understanding of how mental health impacts on behaviour is needed, and to enable this, a multi-agency approach is required to improve data capture. This can support the early identification of any mental health needs but also needs to sit alongside an effective referral process to mental health services.

The South Devon & Dartmoor CSP has delivered three Mental Health Awareness Bite-size workshops provided by Health Promotion Devon in October.

[1] Breaking the link, National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, 2009

[2] Department of Health (2003) Mainstreaming Gender and Women’s Mental health: Implementation Guidance (London: Department of Health)