Hotels in Northampton need to be monitored for signs of children being groomed, report reveals

A hotel watch scheme could be set up in Northampton to monitor for signs of sexual exploitation.
A hotel watch scheme could be set up in Northampton to monitor for signs of sexual exploitation.

More could be done to monitor hotels in Northampton for signs of children being taken there for sexual purposes, a cross-party committee has recommended.

A scrutiny panel set up to find out how Northampton Borough Council could do more in the fight to prevent child sexual exploitation in the town has released a final draft of its report this week.

The cross-party selection of councillors conducted a series of enquiries between March 2016 and March 2017 in order to make recommendations.

Among them the panel has advised ward councillors to persuade schools in their patches to watch the recent hard-hitting Kayleigh's Love Story video, which details the last 13 days of 15-year-old grooming victim Kayleigh Haywood.

But the panel also felt more could be done to work with hotels in the town, which evidence suggests, are often used by paedophiles to meet with children they have groomed.

Chairman Councillor Dennis Meredtih (Lib Dem, Talavera) said: "We are asking hoteliers to be vigilant to spot the signs of young people going in there, looking nervous, trying to book a room.

Councillor Dennis Meredith.

Councillor Dennis Meredith.

"Often the person grooming the child will not book the room themselves. We want the hotels to recognise they have an important role to play."

The report goes on to say council officers and the police have been in discussions about setting up a "hotel watch" scheme in Northampton.

Authorities in Oxfordshire are already running a similar scheme, whereby an adult and child can be sent into premises as test purchasers try and book a room.

If successful, council officers are then asked to approach the hotel and work with them to ensure they recognise the signs of a child being sexually exploited.

The report states: "The scrutiny panel felt that there is a need to keep a 'watching eye' on known hotspots in the town."

During the drawing up of the report, the scrutiny panel held interviews with cabinet members, senior staff at Northampton Borough Council and a number of external expert witnesses.

Among its recommendations, the report states council officers should all be issued with a copy of the Local Government Association's guidance on recognising victims of grooming.

In particular Councillor Meredith said staff charged with watching town centre CCTV could have an important role to play in flagging up potential victims to police.

Staff at the council and Northampton Partnership Homes, which manages the authority's social housing, should all receive increase training to report the signs.

The draft report is due to be discussed at the next overview and scrutiny committee meeting at the Guildhall on Monday, May 8.