I was the adviser to the Scottish parliamentary inquiry into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in 2013. I’m an Edinburgh University researcher and writer on sexual abuse issues.
The shocking catalogue of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, described with such uncompromising integrity by Alexis Jay, happened mainly because police, social services, and even communities witnessing the grooming “in plain sight” shared the abusers’ view of these vulnerable, throwaway girls: they were wee liars, delinquent, promiscuous – and not worth anyone’s hassle or expense. These girls were often under state “protection” after already suffering abuse or neglect.
Until these attitudes are finally uprooted, CSE scandals will continue throughout the UK.
Could staff who have chosen to work in caring for others please tell us how they could witness children’s trauma, distress and physical injuries, yet still interpret these as signs of consent?
Many professionals in Rotherham appear to have been guilty of allowing serious crimes against children to continue. If so, there ought to be grounds for prosecution. They also appear to have been flouting law and guidance from the early 2000s. Indeed, knowledge had been publicised of Sara Swann’s “boyfriend model” by the late 1990s. Developed through her work in Bradford, this described the exact pattern of ensnaring, total control and violent abuse of young teenage girls by older males.
Official guidance to child protection professionals in 2000 made clear that children in what was then called prostitution should be treated primarily as victims of abuses and as children in need. They should be safeguarded, and coercers prosecuted. Identification of children should always trigger multi-agency procedures to ensure their safety and welfare. Looked-after children were especially vulnerable.
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 strengthened the messages of this guidance. It became an offence to cause or incite child prostitution and included the offence “of administrating a substance with the intent of committing a sexual offence”.
Plying victims with drink and drugs is an almost universal feature of CSE. So we also have to ask why the wishes of Parliament and Government were also being ignored for at least a decade.
This year we have had the export of extremism, the Trojan Horse affair in education in Birmingham, and now the horrors of Rotherham. All these have occurred because of the reticence, at best, and the fear, at worst, of treading on the sensibilities of ethnic minorities.
That has been as a direct result of the determination in the past three decades to establish multiculturalism: the notion that all cultures are equal, that there is no such thing as a host-nation culture in which all foreign newcomers have elected to settle and to which they should be prepared to adapt.
It is now surely obvious that the process is an abject failure. It will be a long and uphill task, but the time has clearly come to dismantle the entire concept of the “multicultural society”.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report outlining child abuse in Rotherham raises a number of serious questions about our society and the values of individuals who clearly considered the protection of children less important than maintaining a camouflage of political correctness.
Of course resignations may result, but it’s not enough. Perhaps one way to ensure that morality is more likely to win the day in the future is to prosecute those who knew of these crimes and whose function it was to protect the children or uphold the law.
Brent Pelham, Hertfordshire
A spokesperson from the NSPCC commented that there had been “collective blindness” in uncovering the extent of child abuse in Rotherham. A more appropriate phrase might have been “collective disregard and collusion”.
We can be sure that the figure quoted, of more than 1,400, only scratches the surface of this. For every case we know about, there will be countless others, and in many other cities.
Another recent news item, seemingly unconnected, was the call for sex education for seven-year-olds. These children in Rotherham will have experienced “sex education” of the worst possible kind – and the effect that unhealthy relationships can have.
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset
A good CV will help you get a job...
I sympathise with the situation Nina Gillespie finds herself in (“Got the degree – now for the job”, 21 August). Increasingly, unpaid internships are replacing what would have been paid, permanent jobs five years ago. But those paid graduate jobs do still exist in abundance, and the frustrations experienced by graduates seeking them are felt in similar measure by employers looking to fill their entry-level vacancies.
This summer I reviewed well over 500 CVs from applicants for the 20 or so graduate positions our fast-growing technology company had on offer.
Just over half of those applicants were in the reject pile within one minute of their submissions being opened. Spelling mistakes, typographical errors, random capitalisation and eclectic font use accounted for the majority.
If our universities are offering careers advice, then starting with how new graduates present themselves to employers way before they reach the interview stage would be a start. If they are already doing this, then I would encourage the students to pay more attention in class.
Head of Talent, Egress Software Technologies
...but not if you are of a certain age
In the Seventies and Eighties I went through my schooling years with every belief that my government would look after its own (after all, we’re the ones who pay the taxes) and provide me with a compatible job.
I left college with an honours degree in biological sciences following my three A-levels and nine O-levels. After two years’ struggle I got a suitable job in cancer research in Oxford where I was very happy.
I helped get many scientific papers published and became a well-respected research institute member over 13 years.
Then the funding fell through and I was made redundant. I was not downhearted at the time, as I thought I would easily get another job in the lab with all my experience.
As a temporary “stopgap” I took up a job as a hospital porter. This was 11 years ago and I am still that porter.
In spite of hundreds of applications made to suitable vacancies (mainly within Oxford University), I have been unable to secure another position. Now, at 50, I am considered too old.
This has had a negative effect on my children, who are going through school, disillusioned about what they are actually training for.
None of this is my fault. I worked hard to get my qualifications and I worked hard to gain all the work experience in order to compile a fairly impressive CV – but what good is all this? I’ve come to the conclusion that justice, in this country at least, just doesn’t exist.
Corporate tax failure hits world’s poor
The questions raised by your article about the accuracy of Government figures on corporate tax avoidance (“Osborne claims ‘mis-stated’ success of tax crackdown”, 27 August) touch on a wider issue.
The Government has asserted that the UK needs to help the world’s poorest countries fight back against tax avoidance. But this laudable aim has been contradicted by the UK’s actions. Two years ago the Government watered down its so-called Controlled Foreign Company rules – a measure that could cost poor and developing countries billions of pounds a year in lost tax revenue. That is money that could otherwise be spent building schools, hospitals and other public services.
It is time for all political parties to commit to act against the damage to poor countries caused by the UK’s corporate tax regime.
Florence de Vesvrotte
Government Relations Adviser, ActionAid
You cannot make tax sexy. HMRC should concentrate on corporations and individual executives who consistently pay less tax than their cleaners, instead of playing cops and robbers with 30 individuals on a “most wanted” list.
A question of too much sport?
Celia Stevens and David Harris (letters, 26 August) complain about how the sports pages cover too much men’s sport and too much football respectively. Perhaps there is just too much sport in The Independent (18 per cent of yesterday’s paper)?