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5.1 Abduction


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  Action to Safeguard
  How the Police use the Law to Safeguard Children at Risk of Sexual Exploitation


  1. Child abduction is the abduction or kidnapping of a child or baby by an older person. Several distinct forms of child abduction exist:
    • A stranger removing a child for criminal purposes: e.g. child sexual abuse, torture, murder, or for extortion - to elicit a ransom from the child's caretakers;
    • A stranger removes a child usually a baby, with the intent to rear the child as their own;
    • A parent removes or retains a child from another parent's care (often in the course of or after divorce proceedings).
  2. Perhaps the most feared (but rare) kind of abduction is removal by a stranger. The most common form of abduction relates to parents removing or detaining a child from the other parent's care. Sometimes this may involve taking a child abroad without the other parent's consent, or wrongfully detaining them in a foreign country following an overseas trip. If a parent takes or sends a child out of the UK without the permission of those with Parental Responsibility or the permission of the court this would be classed as child abduction. If a person has a Child Arrangements Orders for a child they will not be acting unlawfully if the child is taken or sent out of the UK for less than 4 weeks without the appropriate consent.

Action to Safeguard

  1. If a practitioner is concerned that a child who is being abused or neglected may be taken out of the country and as a result they may suffer Significant Harm, the practitioner should contact Children's Social Care and the local Police immediately. The local authority may need to consider whether it should use its powers under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard the child. A practitioner seeking to protect such a child should consider the need for independent legal advice about immigration from an accredited lawyer. Consideration should be given to liaison with UK Visas and Immigration, not only about the child but also about the abusers and anyone seeking to smuggle a child out of the country. It will be relevant to consider:
    • Why is the child being taken out of the UK?
    • Will the care arrangements for the child in the UK allow the local authority to discharge its safeguarding duties?
    • What is the child's immigration status? Has the child recently arrived in the UK, and how did they arrive?
    • What are the proposed arrangements for the child in their country of destination? Is it possible to check these arrangements?
    • Are you satisfied that these arrangements will safeguard and promote the welfare of the child?
  2. Take advice if you suspect that a child is at risk of Significant Harm, but you are not sure what to do, consult a manager, Named Professional, designated member of staff, or Children's Social Care. Similarly, seek advice if you are dealing with a culture that you do not understand.

How the Police use the Law to Safeguard Children at Risk of Sexual Exploitation

  1. Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984 states that where a person removes, detains or keeps a child away from a person who has lawful control of the child then that person is guilty of an offence. This could simply be that the child is in the person's house or company when parents think the child is elsewhere.
  2. If the Police, in conjunction with other agencies suspect that a child is involved in an inappropriate relationship with an adult, but have no evidence to suspect any other criminal behaviour they may issue a warning under the Abduction Act. This warning in effect instructs the adult not to have any further contact with the child and informs them of the consequences should they choose to ignore it. This warning has been shown to be an effective tool in reducing the risks posed by some adults to children and removes any defence that person may have had to a prosecution under this legislation.
  3. If there is reason to suspect that a child is being "groomed" for the purpose of sexual abuse the Police will arrest the adult detaining the child and commence an investigation.
  4. In all cases where child abduction is suspected the Police should be contacted.