A former commissioner for children in Scotland has been appointed to lead an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
Professor Kathleen Marshall chaired an investigation into abuse in children’s homes in Edinburgh.
She will hold a summit this month and take evidence into how to protect looked-after children and measure the extent of child sexual exploitation in Northern Ireland.
A PSNI investigation known as Operation Owl is looking at cases of suspected abuse of 22 children.
The inquiry panel will include the chief executives of health service, criminal justice and education regulators. It will report back before the end of next year.
Stormont health minister Edwin Poots’ announcement comes after more than 30 people have been arrested as part of a major investigation into the sexual exploitation of children and young people.
A group of 22 young people aged between 13 and 18 may have been abused.
The majority of the victims were harmed when they went missing from care homes, at times after being plied with drugs or alcohol. Many did not realise they were being exploited, police have said.
Mr Poots said: “I want to ensure that we prevent, as far as possible, further sexual exploitation of children and young people in Northern Ireland.
“I also want to ensure that our child safeguarding systems are sufficiently robust across all sectors and, in particular, it is essential that those who are responsible for exploiting children in this way face the full rigours of the law.”
The inquiry’s terms of reference include establishing the nature and extent of exploitation.
:: Examining the effectiveness of safeguarding and protection arrangements and measures to prevent and tackle exploitation;
:: Making recommendations on future action needed to prevent the exploitation and who should be responsible for carrying these steps out;
:: Considering the specific safeguarding issues for looked after children in state care, taking into account another ongoing review by experts;
:: Engaging with parents to help identify issues they are facing and take their views on what needs to be done to keep their children safe.
The findings of the inquiry will be reported to Mr Poots, Stormont Justice Minister David Ford and Education Minister John O’Dowd.