Organised groups of sexual predators targeting children in care, study finds

Organised Groups Of Sexual Predators Targeting Children In Care, Study Finds
The research calls for an 'urgent' investigation as it details cases of girls being taken from residential care homes by taxis and brought to hotels. File photo: Getty
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Teenagers in the care of the State are being targeted and sexually exploited by co-ordinated "gangs" of predatory men, according to a new study which has found evidence of predators grooming children and hanging around accommodation centres and hotel lobbies.

The research calls for an "urgent" and "immediate investigation" into the problem as it details cases of girls being taken from residential care homes by taxis and brought to hotels, where they were then sexually exploited and abused


The study by University College Dublin (UCD) school of social policy, published on Thursday, is based on interviews with staff and organisations working with children in care.

Researchers from the Sexual Exploitation Research Programme (SERP) at the university interviewed workers from 14 agencies working with children and also consulted senior gardaí and officials at the child protection agency Tusla before making their recommendations. The research was supported by Community Foundation Ireland.

The interviews with those working in the care environment raised serious concerns for the researchers.

The study also found that frontline workers were uncertain about reporting their suspicions and felt uncomfortable discussing sexual exploitation.


Dr Mary Canning, co-author of the study, described the findings as "harrowing" and "hugely disturbing".

"[The findings] show the incredible challenge facing the people expected to protect some of the most vulnerable children in our country," she said.

"In order to stay true to their accounts our report uses direct testimony which shows the barriers faced by professionals who are absolutely committed to protecting children.

"What they are witnessing in terms of targeting, grooming and sexual exploitation of children is harrowing. The need for policies, training and other supports to assist those on the frontline have been laid bare for all to see.

"We welcome the openness of both Tusla and the Gardaí in engaging in our research and their examination of our findings. What is needed now is action to ensure all children are protected from groups of men intent on committing crimes and harm."

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