Rotherham child abuse scandal: Threats and collusion kept justice at bay

 

CRIME CORRESPONDENT

The child victim had been repeatedly raped before she found the courage to report her story to the police. She had tried to escape, but the perpetrators had broken her brother’s legs and smashed the windows of her parent’s home as a warning.

When she finally visited the police station, she received a text from her main abuser who made it perfectly clear what would happen to her 11-year-old sister if she spoke out. “Your choice,” he wrote repeatedly – and the girl refused to give a statement.

The case – from 2001 and detailed in today’s independent report – was the last straw for the Home Office researcher who had persuaded the young victim to go to the police. She wrote to the chief constable of South Yorkshire police and at a subsequent meeting with a senior officer and council staff was firmly told never to do such a thing again. When she handed in her research data to the Home Office, the council suspended her erroneously, and then sidelined her so that her part of a report on prostitution was never completed.

The story highlights the atmosphere of cover-up and collusion at Rotherham Council. Nobody in the upper echelons of the child-care system could say they were not aware of the raft of warnings. But a collective failure of leadership meant continued, well-founded warnings about the widespread sexual abuse of children were suppressed, ignored or played down because of short-term political considerations.

The priority in Rotherham was jobs and investment and, to some senior figures, any focus on child sexual exploitation was an unwelcome sideshow. In one extraordinary episode in 2009, a senior unnamed official shouted and swore through an hour-long meeting as he complained that Rotherham had “too many looked-after children” which accounted for the council’s spending problems.

Video: Rotherham abuse victim speaks out

The report highlights the highly dysfunctional atmosphere among both officers and councillors which led to the “blatant” failure of its leadership. One person told the inquiry team “the member barometer re sexual matters was skewed”.

The report details an atmosphere of bullying, machismo and sexism at a council where senior women officers were not welcomed and difficult issues of rape and sexual exploitation of children could not be discussed. It heard evidence that the council was a “very grubby environment” in which to work where one woman was encouraged to wear shorter skirts to get on and a senior member said women were fit only for “cooking, washing and darning”.

And yet Professor Alexis Jay said that three reports in 2002, 2003 and 2006 could not have been clearer in their description of what was going on. The first was suppressed because senior council officials did not believe the evidence. The next two, that linked child abuse and drugs, were ignored.

Police colluded with the council’s inaction. The report said that officers from the South Yorkshire force regarded “many child victims with contempt”. The report heard of two cases where fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused only to be arrested themselves when police were called.

Professor Alexis Jay led the investigation into child abuse in Rotherham Professor Alexis Jay led the investigation into child abuse in Rotherham (PA)
The councillor with responsibility for children’s services in Rotherham for part of the period covered by the report was Shaun Wright, the current police and crime commissioner – the elected watchdog – of the force. Political opponents called on him to consider his position.

The attacks were carried out predominantly by Asian gangs, but some staff at the council were nervous about identifying the ethnic origins of the attackers for fear of being called racists. Others said they had clear direction from their managers not to do so, according to the report.

Some councillors believed it was a one-off problem – dispelled most clearly today by Professor Jay’s verdict on the scale of the abuse that went largely ignored by most of the people that mattered for more than a decade.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week