Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling visited Keighley today to find out what can be done nationally to help in the fight against child sexual exploitation.
He met police officers and civilian workers who are on the frontline of the campaign against the crime.
During his visit to Keighley Police Station, Mr Grayling said: “It is a learning curve for me, and one of the main aims today has been to come and get a sense of the scale of the challenge we’re facing.
“There is a very large number of victims involved, and I’ve been told about the need to get cases to court as quickly as possible.
“We discussed a pilot we’re running in Leeds to allow vulnerable witnesses to give evidence outside the court room.
“There are changes we can make nationally that would help, but this problem can only be solved through a multi-agency approach in which all organisations work together.”
He stressed that all communities had a collective responsibility to help combat this crime. Commenting on arguments that the offence is particularly associated with Pakistani Muslim men, he said: “It is an issue that is present among Pakistani men, but it’s not exclusive to them. It exists in other communities as well, and I’d never single out any particular community as being responsible.”
He paid tribute to Keighley Conservative MP Kris Hopkins, who has pushed for changes to national legislation to help make sure youngsters cannot be groomed for sex in hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Mr Grayling said he supported police action aimed at wider criminal behaviour which could be linked to child sex grooming – such as gang and drug- related activity.
While at the police station, he met Mr Hopkins and Zoe Stephenson-Jones, of the Children’s Society Hand in Hand project. He also spoke to Paul Hill, who manages the Bradford Safeguarding Children board, Superintendent Vince Firth, of the Bradford Safeguarding Board, and Detective Chief Inspector Darren Minton.