The horrifying cost of official failure to confront widespread child sexual exploitation has been revealed in a damning report detailing how abusers exploited 1,400 children from a single town over 16 years.
Gangs of Asian men groomed, abused and trafficked vulnerable children while police were contemptuous of the victims and the council ignored what was going on, in spite of years of warnings and reports about what was happening.
Despite what the inquiry head called a “blatant” failure of leadership at the Labour-run council, nobody will be sacked or face inquiries into their inaction. The leader of the council, Roger Stone, quit today because of what he called “historic failings”. He apologised in 2013 for the failure to protect children in the town – and the inquiry said the act of contrition should have been made years earlier.
The report commissioned by the council, covering 1997 to 2013, detailed cases where children as young as 11 had been raped by a number of different men, abducted, beaten and trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England to continue the abuse.
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, said she found “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.
It said that three reports from 2002 to 2006 highlighted the extent of child exploitation and links to wider criminality but nothing was done, with the findings either suppressed or simply ignored. Police failed to act on the crimes and treated the victims with contempt and deemed that they were “undesirables” not worthy of protection, the inquiry team was told.
One young person told the inquiry that “gang rape” was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham where she lived. In most of the cases that the inquiry team examined, the victims were white children under the age of 16 and the perpetrators named in the files as “Asian males”.
The report said council staff were scared of being accused of racism by flagging up the issue in a town of nearly 260,000, where 8 per cent were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
However, schools raised the alert over the years about children as young as 11 being picked up by taxis, given presents and phones and taken to Rotherham and other towns and cities.
One researcher for the Home Office who raised concerns with senior police officers about the level of abuse in 2002 was told not to do so again, then suspended and sidelined, the inquiry found. Youth workers who worked with the victims and had already repeatedly told police and officials about the problems were criticised by full-time council staff and their roles downgraded.
The focus on Rotherham followed the jailing of five Asian men in 2010 after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex. The five men, described as sexual predators by the judge, groomed teenage girls and had sex with them in cars and parks in Rotherham.
After the five were jailed, police said the case showed how seriously the force and the council treat the issue of child sexual exploitation.
Following the case, The Times revealed details showing that police and agencies had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet had failed to prosecute.
John Cameron, head of the NSPCC helpline, said: “This report is truly damning and highlights consistent failures to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of predatory groups of men. It is quite astonishing that even when frontline staff raised concerns, these were not acted upon so allowing devastating child sexual exploitation to go unchallenged.”
Council chief executive Martin Kimber said that all the key officers concerned with child protection during the time of the review had left the council.