David Cameron
The prime minister revealed plans to tackle child sexual abuse.Reuters

British prime minister David Cameron outlined plans to tackle child sexual abuse which he said is on an 'industrial scale'.

The PM accused people and organisations of a "walking on by" culture.

Teachers, councillors and social workers in England and Wales who fail to protect children could face up to five years in jail, according to a BBC report.

Child sexual exploitation will be treated as a "national threat" with police and crime commissioners having a duty to collaborate in order to protect children.

Cameron was speaking at a summit on Tuesday to address the issue after child exploitation scandals in Rotherham and Oxfordshire. He said: "I think it's very important we take a step back and just recognise the horrific nature of what has happened in our country."

A serious case review into abuse of children in Oxfordshire that found up to 373 children could have been the victims of sexual grooming over the past 16 years.

The prime minister told the BBC: "Young girls - and they are young girls - being abused over and over again on an industrial scale, being raped, being passed from one bunch of perpetrators to another bunch of perpetrators.

"And all the while this has happened with too many organisations and too many people walking on by.

"And we have got to really resolve that this stops here, it doesn't happen again and we recognise abuse for what it is."

He added that "if professionals fail, there need to be consequences".

Citing the Oxford report he said: "I just wanted to read one thing from it, just finally, because this really brought home to me the issue of how we need a massive dose of common sense, when in the Oxfordshire serious case review it notes: "One does not need training in child sexual exploitation to know that a 12-year-old sleeping with a 25-year-old is not right, or that you don't come home drunk, bruised, half-naked and bleeding from seeing your 'friends'."

The plans were revealed at a Downing Street meeting - attended by victims, survivors' groups, ministers, police chiefs, child protection experts, and social care providers.

The proposals include:

  • Unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down.
  • A national helpline being set up to enable professionals to report bad practice.
  • Senior staff who leave councils after abuse councils having pay-offs "clawed back" if it is shown they failed to protect children under their responsibility.