09/05/2012 14:58 BST | Updated 09/07/2012 06:12 BST

So Many Children Do Not See Their Tormentors Brought to Justice

The incarceration of nine men for crimes including child rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation is welcome news.

The arms of the law are reaching further than ever before and we can only be thankful that these vile perpetrators are no longer free to harm more innocents.

Yet so many children like those in this case do not see their tormenters brought to justice.

Thousands of victims of child sexual exploitation are being let down by the system.

They are being failed twice; once by the failure to prevent them becoming victims in the first place and again by the failure to punish their abusers and secure justice.

We need to see drastic changes to make sure the abusers who control such vulnerable children for sex and personal gain are brought to book.

Across the UK, Barnardo's worked intensively with 1,200 victims or young people at risk of sexual exploitation, last year. Of 137 police investigations the we knew about involving young people we have helped, only 24 resulted in convictions.

I believe there are two significant reasons for such low conviction rates; cases are dropped due to insufficient evidence and the over reliance on victims to act as witnesses.

We are expecting too much of children to carry the weight of court cases on their young shoulders.

Trials can be traumatic and painful experiences for children - especially when multiple perpetrators are involved and they are subjected to multiple cross examinations.

And when children do have the courage to take the stand, we need to make sure that they have the support that they deserve the whole way through the process.

The invasive nature of the court cases can stop young people from reporting the horrific abuse or from providing evidence. Until young victims are better supported through this daunting and potentially damaging process, for example by making better use of the available special measures for court, there will only be marginal increases in the number of prosecutions.

As well as seeking prosecutions, police can try to disrupt exploitation. Disruption tactics are becoming more widely used by police - either in place of or alongside efforts to prosecute. Our services were aware of at least 16 child abduction notices issued to abusers, last year, but these tactics could be used more widely.

There is so much more to be done, so whilst we can commend all those involved in the convictions of these despicable men at Liverpool Crown Court, we must build on this momentum for the sake of the thousands of children we believe are out there and who need rescuing.