Thursday, July 16, 1998 Published at 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Campaign to end child prostitution
Pimps are only prosecuted for living off immoral earnings
The children's charity Barnardo's is claiming men who buy and sell children for sex are escaping without punishment because the law is out of date.
As the BBC's Social Affairs correspondent Alison Holt reports, a significant number of children are working as prostitutes but the adults who exploit them face relatively minor charges.
Her story is typical of many of the children who according to the charity Barnardo's are forced to work in this world.
Samantha's boyfriend started off showering her with love but then beat her up. Frightened and alone, she was kept a virtual prisoner in the sauna and flats where she worked.
It is impossible to know the true extent of the problem, but the charity has carried out what it believes is the first limited survey.
In one year it says 48 agencies such as charities, police and social services had contact with at least 267 girls under 16 and 338 aged 16-18.
The problem was not confined to the red light areas of cities.
Most disturbingly there seems to be plenty of men willing to buy sex from a child and plenty of others willing to be their pimps.
Barnardo's is now launching a campaign to change the law.
That way the girls can be helped to get away from that type of life.
At 17 Samantha has escaped from her violent boyfriend, and says she no longer works as a prostitute.
But her advice for any girl facing similar problems is to find help as quickly as possible, because she believes her own future has already been badly damaged.