26 Aug 2014

1,400 children’ sexually abused in Rotherham

Around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013, according to a report.

The report said that the figure of 1,400 was a “conservative estimate” and admitted “no one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years”. It also said that in more than a third of cases the children involved were already known to the authorities, but they failed to intervene.

Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, said she found examples of “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.

She also said she found that girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men. Others were trafficked to towns and cities in the north of England where they were abducted, beaten and intimidated.

Professor Jay said the police “regarded many child victims with contempt”, and the failures of Rotherham Council during the first 12 years the report examined were “blatant”.

These failures happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 “which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham”. She said the first of these reports was “effectively suppressed” because senior officers did not believe the data. The other two were ignored, Professor Jay said.

Resignation

The leader of Rotherham Council stepped down with immediate effect after accepting responsibility on behalf of the council.

Roger Stone, who had been leader of the council since 2003, said: “Having considered the report, I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so.

“For this reason, I have today agreed with my Labour group colleagues that I will be stepping down as leader with immediate effect.”

Professor Jay found there was a “macho”, “sexist” and “bullying” culture within the council which was “likely to have impeded the council from providing an effective, corporate response to such a highly sensitive social problem as child sexual exploitation.”

Despite Mr Stone’s resignation, council chief executive Martin Kimber said no council officers will face disciplinary action.

“Fear of being thought racist”

According to the report, the majority of the perpetrators were described as “Asian” by victims, but councillors seemed to hope the problem would go away and “several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist”.

The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as “sexual predators”, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex. The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last four years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.

After the 2010 case, the Times newspaper found evidence that South Yorkshire Police and child protection agencies had extensive knowledge of the abuse, yet did nothing to prosecute those responsible.

Mr Martin Kimber said: “The report does not make comfortable reading in its account of the horrific experiences of some young people in the past and I would like to reiterate our sincere apology to those who were let down when they needed help.”

Mr Kimber said no council officials will face disciplinary action as a result of the report’s findings: “Officers in senior positions responsible for children’s safeguarding services throughout the critical periods when services fell some way short of today’s standards do not work for the council today.

“To that extent, I have not been able to identify any issues of professional practice related to current serving officers of this council that would require me to consider use of disciplinary or capability procedures.”

The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as “sexual predators”, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex. The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last four years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.

After the 2010 case, the Times newspaper found evidence that South Yorkshire Police and child protection agencies had extensive knowledge of the abuse, yet did nothing to prosecute those responsible.

Mr Martin Kimber said: “The report does not make comfortable reading in its account of the horrific experiences of some young people in the past and I would like to reiterate our sincere apology to those who were let down when they needed help.”

Mr Kimber said no council officials will face disciplinary action as a result of the report’s findings: “Officers in senior positions responsible for children’s safeguarding services throughout the critical periods when services fell some way short of today’s standards do not work for the council today.

“To that extent, I have not been able to identify any issues of professional practice related to current serving officers of this council that would require me to consider use of disciplinary or capability procedures.”