As a survivor of sexual grooming in Rotherham, I was shocked to read about the paid sex offender in Newcastle

I know that going through an investigation and a court case isn’t easy but to hear the word ‘guilty’ makes it all worthwhile – you know that you’ve saved others

Sammy Woodhouse
Tuesday 15 August 2017 13:00 BST
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Canning Street in Newcastle, where grooming gang member Yassar Hussain lived
Canning Street in Newcastle, where grooming gang member Yassar Hussain lived (Lizzie Dearden)

Last week, 17 men and one woman were found guilty of grooming and abusing children in Newcastle. I’d heard this story time and time before – I had also experienced it firsthand.

I met Arshid Hussain just after my 14th birthday in Rotherham. I was outside my local shop with my friend when he approached me. He was 24 years-old, fresh out of prison and well known to authorities for being a paedophile.

I would go on to be mentally, physically and sexually abused. He also groomed me to commit crime. I came forward in 2013 and after a lengthy investigation I testified against him at Sheffield Crown Court along with other victims. In February 2017 he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

It saddened me to hear that other women and girls had to endure such treatment at the hands of a grooming gang, but I was glad that they had the courage to come forward and testify against the evil that had shattered their lives.

Operation Sanctuary: "We do not believe that what we have uncovered is unique to Newcastle"

I imagined how the survivors must be feeling. I know that going through an investigation and a court case isn’t easy but to hear the word “guilty” makes it all worthwhile – you know that you’ve saved others.

There’s a feeling of relief that it’s over, a feeling of empowerment, the feeling that your life is about to begin again and no one can blame you or call you a liar. You can walk out of that court room with your head held high.

But for the survivors of the Newcastle grooming gang it wasn’t quite over and what came next shocked me to the core.

The police had paid a convicted child rapist to be an informant on the case. A decision that nearly had the case thrown out of court and put vulnerable people at further risk.

The police claimed he was never around individuals but the informer known as XY claimed he was at around 30 parties. His evidence was not put before a jury. It was also revealed that he was arrested whilst an informer for a sexual act towards a child.

I tried to put myself in the situation of not only his victim, but of the victims in the trial – I just couldn’t imagine their pain. The police claimed that they would not have got the conviction without him, which is not only nonsense but a blow to the survivors in the case and around the UK.

It sent the message that survivors are not relevant or needed. I would like to make it clear that the conviction in that case, and any other, is due to the survivor’s evidence and testimony. If further information was needed an undercover police officer should have been used, ensuring that information was received safely rather than throwing in a known sex offender and hoping that no other young girls would be put at risk.

I’d like to say well done to the brave survivors, police officers and professionals working together – that’s why there was a guilty verdict. I hope they can find some closure and move forward with their lives.

They now need to be left in peace and the blame should not be laid at their door. A child is never to blame. Instead, we need to ask why criminals abuse children and people ignore their crimes. Finding answers to these questions is the real task ahead of us.

You can visit the author’s website sammywoodhouse.com where you can download a guidance document for professionals, campaigns and suggestions and national support services

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