Published Thursday, 19 September 2013
As exclusively revealed by UTV, the police have launched a major child sexual exploitation investigation involving at least 22 young alleged victims based in Northern Ireland.
It's thought multiple criminal gangs are involved and potentially over 100 individuals.
Speaking before the Stormont Justice Committee, Chief Constable Matt Baggott said in the wake of the scandal he would welcome a "joint review" or a "real time peer review".
He said: "Something that involves ourself, health, that can challenge us in terms of the best practice in terms of the journey we have been through, make it in real time so we haven't got to wait a year for recommendations to come out."
The senior investigating officer ACC Mark Hamilton admitted not all the links were made in initial investigations.
We investigated things as they arose. Some links would have been made, but not as cohesively as they should be now.
ACC Mark Hamilton
He was questioned on why police had not taken on board serious changes after the publication of the 2011 Barnardos report which highlighted that young people, particularly those in care, were at risk of sexual exploitation.
"People didn't view it at the time, rightly or wrongly as an investigative start point," he told the committee.
"Clearly that is the question. People are asking why that didn't happen. I can't say why it didn't happen. It just didn't."
A team of 12 detectives are currently assigned to the probe alongside social workers, but Mr Baggott said he would commit whatever extra resources were needed.
Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie also responded to concerns that police resources for child protection were being diverted away due to parades and protests.
"Those comments are not blaming one side or the other. It is the reality of the pressure. Standing up level two tactical support groups has a consequence."
On Wednesday, Health Minister Health Minister Edwin Poots said he will consider an independent review into the sexual exploitation of young people in care and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
ACC Mark Hamilton confirmed in an exclusive interview with UTV that 18 children identified as potential victims went missing from care more than 400 times in an 18 month period.
Police believe most of the men involved are in their early 20s, although they range from teenagers to 60 year olds.
More than 30 arrests have been made so far.
Minister Poots said he would look at how to ensure best practice is carried out in his department's facilities.
"There are clearly issues around protection, around safeguarding and around processes that need to be addressed," he said.
© UTV News