Police in Scotland say they are investigating that two of their own officers were involved in a child abuse ring in Glasgow in 2014.
It comes after Sky News investigated organized sexual abuse in the city and spoke to one young woman who claimed she had recognized an officer who sexually abused her as a child because he was the same man who sometimes picked her up and took her home after she went missing.
Data examined by Sky News also show a huge gulf between the number of children referred for help as victims of modern slavery, compared to the number of attempted prosecutions for the crime.
Toni Louise, now 22, has waived her anonymity to tell her story.
She says she was groomed and sold for sex by a man she thought was her boyfriend.
The first time he told her to have sex with another man she was 12 years old.
She said: “One day he was like ‘I need you to do something for me. And well you don’t really have a choice in it’.”
“I was kind of like, ‘I don’t really want to do this’. And he was like, ‘It’s too late now. I’ve already told him that you’re gonna do it’. And that was the first time that I was sold for money.”
Toni Louise said she started to go true from school.
“At first it was only like once or twice a week that I would have to leave school. And then it got to like every day. It got to the point where I wasn’t even making it up to school. He was picking me up at the end of my mum’s street.”
Sold to up to ’30 men a day’
She says she was sold to up to 30 men a day, to people of all nationalities and from all walks of life including, she claims, two police officers.
Challenged on how she knew they were police officers, she replied: “Because some of them were the ones that took me home, when I’ve been reported missing. So, I’ve seen them in their uniform.”
She says one officer who abused her several times over a six-month period even had a conversation with her mother in the kitchen after dropping her back home.
According to her account, the fact that he was one of her abusers was never mentioned during the car journeys.
She said: “I think work mode is different to ‘I’m going to rape a child’ mode like it was never acknowledged.”
Toni Louise eventually escaped her situation, but says when she first reported it to the police she was told: “You’ve got an active imagination for a wee girl haven’t you?”
Initially, she did not report the referring to the police officers for fear it would not be believed.
But numerous alleged crimes against her have been logged by Glasgow police including 29 rapes. There was an investigation but, despite one person being charged, it did not reach court.
‘She was very thin, very small’
Toni Louise has now reported the alleged incidents involving police officers and in a statement, Police Scotland said: “A new report of child exploitation involving police officers from 2014 was received by Police Scotland on 9 May 2022.
“This report is now being investigated by specialist officers from our National Sexual Crimes Unit and we are unable to comment further at this stage.
“We would like to reassure anyone who has been a victim of sexual crime that time is no bar to reporting and all will be fully investigated, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator.”
Twenty years ago the charity Barnardo’s first suggested around 100 children were being sold for sex in Glasgow. Over the years concerns have resurfaced especially, around the area of Govanhill.
When Sky News first began investigating the story three years ago a local sex worker, “Beth”, said she saw a child being sold for sex in one of Glasgow’s poorest suburbs.
She told Sky News: “She looked about 13, 14, if that. She was very thin, very small. I could see that she was definitely working. So, I went over to her and said, ‘are you alright?’ and she just didn’t want to talk to me and stepped back from me as if she was scared of me. I said, ‘are you working?’
“And this man came out from absolutely nowhere, absolutely nowhere, and said ‘she’s fine. Is there a problem?’ and I said ‘no, just wondering if she’s well’ and he said, ‘she’s fine.’ I said, ‘are you with her then?’ and he just said, ‘yeah I’m her uncle.'”
Abused from the age of eight
Another alleged victim, speaking anonymously, told Sky News that she was abused from the age of eight, initially by a local shopkeeper.
She said: “They were giving me drink at a young age. And like juice, ice cream, ’cause we didn’t have a lot. Didn’t have money for ice cream.”
Children’s treats turned to drugs and what began as one individual’s sexual abuse in the back of the shop became regular exploitation by groups of men, in properties across Govanhill. One of the properties was on the same street where Toni Louise says she was regularly abused, although the two women have never met.
Male child victims of modern slavery are mostly involved in criminality such as selling drugs, with girls most often sold for sex.
Sky News analysis of national data in Scotland found that in three years, 349 children have been given a “reasonable grounds” decision under the national referral mechanism (MRM) as being victims of modern slavery. Yet, data over that period shows only eight attempted prosecutions – and not one conviction.
The picture is no better across the rest of the country. In the United Kingdom, there have been over 18,000 minors who have received “reasonable grounds” decisions by the NRM between 2016 and 2021.
Yet over the same period, the Crown Prosecution Service completed just 185 modern slavery-related prosecutions involving a child victim – with a 51% conviction rate.