UK's Cameron Says Child Sex Abuse to be Classified 'National Threat'

David Cameron
Britain's Prime Minister, David Cameron leaves number 10 Downing Street in central London June 14, 2013. Stefan Wermuth/ REUTERS

British Prime Minister David Cameron will make child sexual abuse a national priority on a par with organized crime on Tuesday, as he announces a series of measures to prevent systematic abuse.

Britain has been rocked by a series of child sex abuse revelations, including a case in Rotherham, northern England, where some 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were abused by gangs of predominantly Asian men.

Classifying child sexual abuse as a national threat will create a duty for police forces to collaborate across regions to safeguard children, Cameron's office said. Cameron will also announce other measures to improve coordination between public bodies and a helpline to encourage whistleblowers.

In addition, Cameron will propose criminal sanctions for senior public workers who fail to protect children from abuse, as he speaks to a meeting of victim groups, police and child protection experts in his official London residence.

"We have all been appalled at the abuse suffered by so many young girls in Rotherham and elsewhere across the country," Cameron will say, according to extracts released in advance by his office.

"Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet – often because of a warped and misguided sense of political correctness. That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated."

The government has begun an inquiry into decades of child abuse and whether powerful public figures covered it up.

On Monday, British police charged 10 men with sexual offences, including several involving children, as part of a wider police investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rochdale, another northern English town.