Children as young as ten are being moved around the UK and sexually abused at parties organised by paedophiles, according to a new report by Barnardo’s.
The report, Whose Child Now?, revealed that organised gangs may be sexually exploiting as many as 10,000 children each year.
One in six of these children are being trafficked into the country from abroad.
Author of the report Lisa Stacey said: “We know of children being moved from north-east England to London, or from Yorkshire to London or Manchester.”
The charity has released some of the victims’ stories.
One victim, Imogen, was taken into care when she was twelve.
Whilst in care Imogen regularly ran away and during this time she was groomed by an older man who gave her everything she wanted.
Imogen was then taken to cities around the country to have sex with different men.
Last month it was revealed that British girls as young as twelve are being sold to wealthy men for sex at up to £50,000 a time.
In September an academic called for the age of consent to be lowered from 16 to 13 on a BBC Radio 4 programme.
Professor John Spencer, professor of law at Selwyn College, Cambridge, suggested that since many under-16s were having sex anyway, the law should be changed.
In response to Prof Spencer’s call columnist Melanie Phillips pointed out the importance of the age of consent law in protecting children after a female teacher was sentenced for a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.
She said that abolishing the legal protection would be to remove “all remaining constraints and worsen an already disastrous situation”.
Michael Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary, said the age of consent “affirms our society’s determination to use law to protect the innocent”.
The age of consent was raised to 16 during the Victorian era because girls as young as twelve were being sold into the sex trade.
The age of consent law stands at 16 thanks to the efforts of Christian campaigner, Josephine Butler, who fought to protect girls and prostitutes from liberal laws.
Listen to a lecture on the life and work of Josephine Butler: