Soap star visits the region to back fight against child exploitation

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The actor at the centre of a child grooming storyline on Coronation Street has been in the North East backing National Safeguarding Week.

Chris Harper, who played child groomer, Nathan Curtis, in the popular soap, came to Durham as part of week of events co-ordinated by the Local Safeguarding Children Board.

Coronation Street actor, Chris Harper.

Coronation Street actor, Chris Harper.

Chris, whose character was recently jailed for crimes against young girls, spoke about his storyline and the public reaction to his role during a training session on child sexual exploitation at County Hall.

The actor is also involved in the ‘Voicing Child Sexual Abuse’ animation The Mouse, which helps victims and survivors of CSE to share their experiences with the national independent inquiry into child sexual abuse.

The two half-day sessions were organised by the LSCB and Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust who provide the 0-19 Healthy Child Programme in County Durham.

Chris said: "Days like today are absolutely vital because there are so many people working hard in this area and it’s really important they connect as much as possible so that they are
always ready when victims or survivors come forward and need help.

From left to right: Coun Lucy Hovvels, Coun Olwyn Gunn, Jane Geraghty, Coun Peter Brookes, Coun Bill Kellett, Chris Harper and staff from Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

From left to right: Coun Lucy Hovvels, Coun Olwyn Gunn, Jane Geraghty, Coun Peter Brookes, Coun Bill Kellett, Chris Harper and staff from Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.

"The big message I would want to get across to people is that they are not alone and it isn’t your fault and there is help out there.

"In terms of the professionals involved, they’re doing excellent work and as much as possible they should link up all of the forces for good across the country.”

Other speakers at the event included nurses in child protection, the LSCB lead for CSE and Durham Constabulary’s ERASE team, with those attending the session including
Durham County Council family workers.

Jane Geraghty, chairman of Durham LSCB, said: “Child sexual exploitation is child abuse and it can have a damaging and long-lasting impact on children, as well as their families.

“Victims of sexual exploitation are often reluctant to report their abuse or do not recognise they are being abused and so it is extremely important for all of us to be ‘eyes and ears’ in
our communities, to identify children who may be at risk and those who may be offending.

"Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.”

Coun Olwyn Gunn, Durham County Council member for children and young people, said: “The storyline that Chris was involved in has helped to raise the issue of child sexual exploitation across the country and we are delighted he has attended this event to share his experiences.

“Across County Durham, LSCB partner agencies such as children’s services, police and health work together to tackle CSE through three strands of work – prevent, protect and
pursue.

“Training sessions like this highlight the importance of multi-agency working and allow partners to come together, identify areas of good practice and learn from each other.”

A spokesman for Durham Police, which is also involved in National Safeguarding Week, said: "It was fantastic to have Chris Harper at the event to promote awareness around sexual exploitation.

"The storyline featuring his character in Coronation Street has really helped bring issues around this often unseen topic to the fore. To have people talking about this in their homes can only be positive.

“This is a real issue that affects more people than many realise. We all need to work together to help victims and prosecute offenders.”

Anyone concerned a child is being abused should call First Contact on 03000 26 79 79.