The police in Northern Ireland believe they have identified about 22 young people who were sexually exploited after they went missing from care homes in 2012.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has launched this investigation following two wide-scale abuse inquiries in England. It is believed that 22 young people “may be at risk” from a group or groups of predators outside the UK’s care home system.
The PSNI said they are “increasingly concerned about the issue of child sexual exploitation following an internal review.”
“As part of this review, we have identified a group of 22 young people who may be at risk from child sexual exploitation and are seeking to identify those who may have committed crimes against them.”
Pam Hunter of the charity Nexus, which offers counseling to victims of abuse, spoke to the BBC. She said, "It's a shocking news story.
"The whole thing about this crime is that people groom you and entice you with gifts and money and you think you're walking into this voluntarily, but it is a crime.
"Hopefully the police are working hard to catch these criminals, because it needs to be stopped and stopped now."
The Stormont Assembly has scheduled a special joint session of committees dealing with health and justice to address the investigation. Senior police officers along with the British Minister for Health Edwin Poots and Minister for Justice David Ford will be in attendance.
Democratic Unionist Party Assembly member and chairman of the justice committee, Paul Givan, told the Irish Times, “The news that such activity has been taking place is gravely disturbing. The horrors of these crimes leave us only to pray for the victims and work towards ensuring the perpetrators are brought to justice.”
Givan continued, “The public will be deeply concerned at this development and need to hear from the relevant authorities as to what has happened. I am glad that both the Health and Justice Ministers have agreed to attend the Committee. The joint meeting will also be an opportunity to probe what actions are being taken to investigate and bring to justice those responsible.”