It’s been a long week in Rotherham
It’s been a week – for many a long one – since the details of Professor Alexis Jay’s devastating report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham were made public.
The headline: 1,400 children sexually exploited, raped and sometimes tortured in one town in modern Britain.
What’s happened since? Well, there has been lots of explanation by way of talk about “systemic failures” and a “culture of disbelief”, and those rather stock phrases do tell a terrible story. They acknowledge that what happened to children as young as 11 and 12 was partly because the organisations – and the individuals in them – simply didn’t do enough to stop it.
There have been apologies from those organisations and a couple of expressions of regret too.
What else has actually happened? What has physically changed?
The leader of Rotherham council, Councillor Roger Stone, stepped down. The deputy police and crime commissioner, Tracy Cheetham, also resigned – mainly because her boss, Shaun Wright, the actual commissioner, has refused to. He was head of children’s services for five years during the time the abuse took place.
Key officials remain in post at Rotherham while some have moved on to equally highly paid jobs in children’s services in other parts of the country.
Today the Labour party suspended four councillors – they too had not decided to step down of their own accord – despite deciding the council had “collectively failed” these young children.
At South Yorkshire police, where officers, the report said, treated child victims “with contempt” or decided girls as young as 11 had “consented” to sex with grown men, no-one has been moved and no disciplinary action taken against any officers.
But there will be more investigations and more inquiries. Of course.
The government is “minded” to carry out an inspection of Rotherham council.
South Yorkshire police has commissioned an independent inquiry into the way it has dealt with the situation.
And, of course, Theresa May’s own wide-ranging inquiry announced at the beginning of the summer will doubtless take this part of Britain’s grim abuse story under its remit too. Though still no news as to who will head it or when it will officially start.
After reading Professor Jay’s report and its details of children raped by multiple men, threatened with guns or having petrol poured on them and warned they’d be set on fire, it’s hard to see what more “information” is needed before we see real, meaningful change. As I said, it’s been a long week.
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