A specialist team tackling child sexual exploitation has been launched by North Wales Police.

The Onyx team is headed by Detective Sergeant Sarah Fellows who, together with three police officers and other specialists, will be working with children and young people who are most at risk.

Their role will involve gathering intelligence about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in order to identify the current picture across North Wales – where it is happening, the victims and those responsible. They will also play a part in the investigation of any offences identified.

“The Onyx Team will not be working in isolation,” explained Detective Chief Inspector Simon Williams.

“As well as linking in with various departments in the force they will continue to work closely with multi-agencies and partners who include Barnardos practitioners.

“They will also link in with supporting agencies such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHs), Health, Social Care, Probation and Youth Justice.”

“Police officers will play an important part in the work – feeding information relating to CSE to the team, all of whom have extensive experience having worked with children and vulnerable people,” explained DCI Williams.

“All information received by Onyx will be reviewed and in turn they will play a vital part in co-ordinating the response and ensuring that the relevant action is taken.”

Tackling CSE is a key priority for North Wales Police and is listed as an objective of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan in reducing harm and the risk of harm.

Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Sexual Assault have been recognised as an emerging threat nationally. Much work has been undertaken by the force to raise awareness internally amongst staff, partners and the public about CSE which is continuing.

“We all have a duty to help protect children, young people and the vulnerable within our community,” added DCI Williams. “The more you know about CSE, the more you look, the more you see – and this is relevant to all of us.”

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said: “North Wales Police is committed to tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation of any kind, whether this is physical abuse or online. These types of crimes are despicable and abhorrent, and have a terrible and lasting impact upon victims.”

“As the lead Chief officer for CSE within North Wales Police, I want victims to know that we are here to help them. We have specially trained officers across the force area, and our Onyx team will add considerably to our ability to help identify and support victims.

“They will be working with partners across other agencies to make sure that we give the best support possible to people when they come to us for help.

“We recognise how hard it is for victims to come forward and I want to reassure people that we will treat them with the utmost sensitivity and dignity.”

Details of the new Onyx team were revealed in the Police and Crime Plan drawn up by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Winston Roddick CB QC.

Mr Roddick said: “I have chosen to concentrate on new measures in relation to child sexual exploitation because of the prevalence and the escalation in that particular crime.

“The Onyx team will be working in partnership with other agencies so we can be sure that we’re dealing effectively with this heinous crime.

“The force will continue the development of proactive capability in identifying perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, including those accessing indecent images of children through the internet and effective multi-agency working to protect children identified as being at risk.

“I have acted after we saw from the incidents at Rotherham and other parts of the country a staggering amount of child sexual abuse.

“North Wales Police has a good record for identifying emerging crimes and crimes which require specialist teams, for example, the Amethyst Team which concentrated on rape and serious sexual offences.

“The offence is no more prevalent than what it was years ago but the complaints about it have escalated which demonstrates that setting up specialist teams promotes confidence amongst the public and the public will come forward and make the complaint.

“I’m hoping for a similar positive result from the setting up of the team dedicated to complaints of child sexual exploitation.”

Individuals wanting to know more about CSE can obtain information by accessing this following link   http://www.north-wales.police.uk/advice-and-support/stay-safe/child-sexual-exploitation.aspx.

Commenting upon the launch of Onyx,Mannon Williams, Schools Liaison

Co-ordinator, said: “The All Wales School Liaison Core Programme (AWSLCP) welcomes the introduction of the Onyx team within North Wales Police. It’s reassuring to know that we have a dedicated CSE team within the force who can reinforce the key messages our School Community Police Officers deliver within Safeguarding lessons in schools”.

Meinir Williams Jones, Barnardo’s Cymru Assistant Director for North Wales, said: “Barnardo’s has been tackling the scourge of child sexual exploitation for two decades. The scale of this abuse is shocking – wherever we look we find more victims of this horrendous crime.  Every day, more sexually exploited children are referred to us. Girls and boys from all walks of life and in every area of the country can become victims of child sexual exploitation and the numbers are increasing. Further development of our partnership work with North Wales Police and the new Onyx Team will enable us to reach more of these children who need our help and prevent this abuse from inflicting devastating damage on more young lives.”