Editorial: There must never be another Rochdale

State systems repeatedly failed young teenagers suffering appalling sexual abuse

Related Topics

If there is one thing more shocking than the conviction of a gang of men for the systematic sexual abuse of under-age girls, it is the negligence of public authorities in failing to prevent the crimes. There was plenty of opportunity. An inquiry into the grooming of young teenagers for sex in Rochdale has revealed systemic failures in the institutions of the state: social workers, police and officials from the Crown Prosecution Service all fell unforgivably short, over more than a decade. And there can only be fears of similar oversights in scores of other cases all across the country.

With most of the abusers in the Rochdale case of Pakistani heritage, and most of the victims white, the suggestion of a racial component has lurked behind much of the subsequent – justifiably appalled – commentary. The judge at the abusers' trial said that a factor in the men's treatment of their victims as "worthless and beyond any respect" was that the girls were not part of their community or religion. Local MPs in Rochdale and Rotherham have called for an inquiry into the cultural roots of the problem.

It would be as well to be cautious before drawing too general lessons. Analysis of more than 1,200 cases, across the country, by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre found that just 28 per cent of abusers were Asian. Although they may predominate in offences committed in the North and Midlands, in Devon the majority of abusers are white, in Bristol Afro-Caribbean and in London of many ethnicities.

In Rochdale, however, the racial dimension is difficult to avoid. Yet the issue was lamentably omitted from the report published yesterday by the council's Safeguarding Children Board. Thankfully, a number of Muslim community leaders have begun the task: cultural factors in these crimes must be confronted, not buried.

Where the report is unambiguous, though, is in the evidence that state services failed to intervene when they had information about exploitation. Indeed, yesterday's report highlights deficiencies in the training of frontline staff, alarming snobberies among police and prosecutors, and a heart-breaking missed opportunity to end the abuse four years ago.

The law is clear: sex with a girl who is under 16 is rape. Yet some social workers claimed that 13- to-15-year-olds were "making their own choices", and police and prosecutors decided that these young victims would not be found "credible" by a jury because of their "chaotic", "council estate" backgrounds. Such blaming of victims for their own abuse is truly sickening and can never be allowed to be repeated.

Significant change is now needed. Social workers must accept that children under 16 – whatever they say – cannot in law consent to sex; false consciousness is part of what grooming induces. But local authorities and police forces also need to adopt the system in place in Blackburn, which brings together a range of services – police, social workers, nurses, sexual health and drugs workers, as well as parents – to prevent, protect and prosecute.

Blackburn's Engage project carries out surveillance operations against adult suspects; it issues legal warning notices; it tours secondary schools. In four years, the scheme has rescued 80 children and has a 90 per cent conviction rate on child abduction, rape and sexual activity with minors.

Above all, the authorities need to listen more to victims and their parents. Great efforts have gone in to tackling paedophilia in recent years. The same level of focus must be applied in order to halt the grooming of young teenagers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko prior to the start of the European Council Summit in Brussels last month  

David Cameron talks big but is waving a small stick at the Russian bear

Kim Sengupta
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn