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Health workers in a seaside resort where dozens of young girls were sexually exploited were more focused on handing out contraception than spotting the signs of abuse, a report says.
As many as 40 vulnerable girls as young as 13 were victims of sexual exploitation by a group of men in the Torbay area of Devon in the UK between 2006 and 2011.
A serious case review by the Torbay Safeguarding Children Board criticises probation officers and health workers for failing to act on warning signs. Professionals were more focused on reducing Torbay's high teenage pregnancy rate than spotting vulnerable girls, the review says.
Assessments of the girls were not always recorded and “failed to consider fully” their emotional and intellectual maturity.
“Decisions were being made on the level of the treatment proposed, that is, contraception only,” it adds.
The girls were victims of an “unorganised and opportunistic” group of men in their late teens and early 20s who plied them with drink and drugs.
There was no evidence of prostitution or organised paedophilia like in other recent high profile cases.
But the report says there were similarities “regarding the vulnerabilities of the victims and responses of professionals”.
The claims of a 13-year-old girl eventually led to Operation Mansfield, which uncovered the abuse. One man was prosecuted and another was cautioned. Action against others was dropped due to lack of evidence.