Two men aged 27 and 31 barred from having any contact with teenage girls: Council uses injunctions to prevent child sexual exploitation in landmark legal decision
- Police raised concerns about the welfare of a vulnerable 17-year-old girl
- The girl, in the care of Birmingham City Council, was at risk of grooming
- The men were barred from approaching the girl until she turned 18
- It followed public hearing in the Family Division of High Court in London
A High Court judge has ordered two men to stay away from teenage girls in a landmark legal ruling to prevent sexual exploitation.
It came after social services bosses in Birmingham became concerned about the welfare of a vulnerable 17-year-old girl who is in the care of the City Council who was seen with the men.
Mr Justice Keehan granted long-term injunctions against the two men – aged 27 and 31 – after social workers and police raised concerns that the girl was at risk of sexual exploitation.
He barred the men from approaching the girl until she turned 18, and from approaching ‘any female under 18’, with whom they were not personally associated, following a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
A High Court judge has ordered two men to stay away from teenage girls in a landmark legal ruling to prevent sexual exploitation
He is due to analyse evidence against several other men at a hearing in London on Wednesday.
A lawyer representing Birmingham City Council told Mr Justice Keehan bosses had launched civil court proceedings against a number of men with the aim of protecting youngsters who may not understand what was happening to them.
Lorna Meyer QC said West Midlands Police had supported the council’s move.
She said the council and police had identified a ‘number of individuals’ found to be ‘inappropriately’ in the company of the 17-year-old girl.
Lawyers thought that there was not enough evidence to secure criminal convictions – on a beyond reasonable doubt basis – ‘at the current time’.
Mr Justice Keehan granted long-term injunctions against the two men – aged 27 and 31
But they thought that there was enough evidence to obtain civil court injunctions – on a balance of probabilities basis.
Miss Meyer said if long-term injunctions were made, and any of the men were found ‘in the company of a vulnerable child’ by West Midlands Police or Birmingham City Council, then lawyers would ask a judge to impose jail terms for contempt of court.
‘Vulnerable children and in some case adult victims have often been groomed, persuaded or threatened,’ Miss Meyer told the judge.
‘It can be difficult to empower the victims to come forward and give evidence against the perpetrators of the exploitation.
‘This case does not rely upon the victim to give evidence.’
She added: ‘Birmingham City Council have taken this innovative legal step with the support of West Midlands Police to help remedy that situation and to protect vulnerable persons where they are frightened or lack understanding of what is happening to them.’
Miss Meyer referred to investigations in ‘other localities’. And she said there had been concerns that the only way to disrupt such ‘behaviour’ was to place a child who was the focus of concern in secure local authority accommodation.
But she said Birmingham City Council hoped that by seeking court orders against men, ‘inappropriate behaviour’ would be disrupted and victims would get the message that ‘this is not down to you’.
Children’s charity the NSPCC backed the council’s approach. Officials said social services bosses had taken a brave, if possibly controversial, step.
‘We absolutely support this move as its ultimate aim is to protect young girls who are potential sexual abuse victims,’ said Jon Brown, head of the NSPCC’s programmes tackling sexual abuse.
‘This is a serious child protection issue as several recent grooming cases have graphically shown and the authorities must use every weapon in their armoury to stamp it out.
‘We know that many victims do not realise they have been groomed by calculating offenders who are simply targeting them for sex and sometimes to ‘sell them on’ to other abusers. Our work in this area shows it is a sickening and insidious crime which severely damages many young lives.’
He added: ‘This is a brave step that may prove to be controversial but any measured effort to stop the foul activities of those seeking to exploit vulnerable children is to be welcomed.’
Mr Justice Keehan was told how police had seen the 17-year-old girl getting out of a Nissan Micra containing the two men – who were aged 27 and 31 – in the early hours of the morning in early October.
Police said she had waved to the men and walked away.
They said the car had then sped off and gone through a red light.
Miss Meyer said police had stopped the car, arrested the men, found a half-empty vodka bottle on the back seat and a mobile phone which had been used to call the girl.
Officers had spotted the girl walking in a street a short time later.
She had smelled of alcohol and had asked: ‘What are you doing to my boys?’
The men said they had seen the girl walking in the street in the early hours, had been concerned for her safety and had offered her a lift.
Mr Justice Keehan said he was satisfied that the men were ‘seeking to sexually exploit’ the teenager.
A lawyer representing Birmingham City Council (pictured) told Mr Justice Keehan how bosses had launched civil court proceedings against a number of men with the aim of protecting youngsters who may not understand what was happening to them
‘The explanation that a 27-year-old man and a 31-year-old man pick up a 17-year-old girl in the early hours of the morning in some way to protect her is, I am quite satisfied, culpable nonsense,’ said the judge.
‘I am satisfied, so that I am sure, that the reason why they invited (the girl) into their car was for nefarious purposes.’
He added: ‘I am quite satisfied given the totality of the evidence that they were seeking to sexually exploit this young vulnerable woman.’
Mr Justice Keehan has ruled that the 17-year-old girl cannot be identified.
He has also ruled that the two men cannot be identified.
The judge heard that police had concerns for the ‘safety and well-being’ of the men and their families.
He was told that officers wanted to assess ‘likely community reaction’ if the men’s identities were revealed in the media – and consider steps which may be required to protect them and their families.
Mr Justice Keehan said his ‘starting point’ was that the media should not be prohibited from identifying the men.
He said he would consider whether to allow their identities to be revealed on Wednesday, after police safety assessments had been made.
Journalists at the hearing told Mr Justice Keehan that they were concerned about such a reporting restriction being imposed.
The judge said there was a ‘high degree’ of public interest in the case – and he said he understood that concern.
Miss Meyer told the judge that the council had run up more than £30,000 in legal bills.
And she said officials wanted the men, one of whom was unemployed and one of whom worked at a newsagent’s, to each contribute around £2,000 towards those costs.
Lawyers for the men, one of whom was legally-aided, said neither could afford to pay.