2 Sep 2014

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.

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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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2 reader comments

  1. Margaret Maden says:

    Shameful, tabloid style interview tonight (Jackie Long-Barry Sheerman). Where was C4News when his select committee report uncovering the Rotherham scandal came out? The media didn’t think it worth covering? Harrassing BS when he/his committee had done a good job was disgraceful.
    {At least Alex Thompson showed a bit of balanced analysis in his Malaga piece.}
    Prof Margaret Maden.

  2. Nigel Wilson says:

    I thought Barry Sheerman held his own quiet well. When he spoke out all those years ago nobody was listening. This has been the problem all the way through: nobody really cares for the abused. What else could he do?
    It is all very well for the media to rush about self-consciously now but who was digging away at these issues over fourteen years? Mr & Mrs Nobody.
    Now the fat is in the fire there are so many people running for cover it is almost more indecent than abusing a minor. The task for the media is now to prevent the issue being covered up again. Don’t give the Barry Sheerman’s a hard time, I ended sympathising with him. Go give the people who let the kids down are hard time. Go find the people who did the abuse and ruin their lives.

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