Child abuse scandal engulfs Rotherham

The leader of Rotherham Council has resigned following the publication of a report revealing widespread child abuse in the South Yorkshire town.

As many as 1,400 girls were sexually and physically abused by gangs over a 15 year period. Some were even abducted and trafficked to other cities, The Times reports. The abuse included children as young as 11.

According to the independent report, which followed a year-long enquiry, the gangs were almost entirely made of up of men from a Pakistani background. They were allowed to continue their activities with little intervention by the authorities, the paper suggests, with social workers and other frontline professionals afraid to focus on the ethnic background of the perpetrators because this might damage community relations.

Council leader Roger Stone offered his “heartfelt apologies” along with his resignation. However, to date no one working in a senior managerial position at the council when the abuse was at its height has been disciplined, according to The Times.

Youth workers submitted research on three separate occasions – in 2002, 2003 and 2006 – highlighting their concern over the abuse but none of their reports were followed up by managers.

In 2012, confidential documents also came to light highlighting the failure of local authorities in the area to prosecute individuals for child abuse.

The newly published report, entitled Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013), cites a widespread belief amongst many frontline professionals “that some senior people in the council and the police wanted to play down the ethnic dimension”.

The report was written by former senior social worker Alexis Jay. She said:

“I was told that some elected members seemed to be in denial about the issue and refused to believe that such a thing could happen in Rotherham.”

There can be no question that this scandal is a shameful indictment of not only of the perpetrators of the abuse but also of the authorities who are charged with protecting vulnerable children. It is yet another example of a lack of joined-up thinking and action by the Police, local authorities, social services and health workers and lessons need to be learned to prevent a repeat of these tragic events.

The abuse of vulnerable children and people, whether the abuse is of a sexual nature, physical, emotional or otherwise, is rampant throughout the world and Government agencies need to re-think their approach to stamping it out.

We need to focus on the effects of such abuse on the victims and how their lives are shaped as a result of the abuse they have suffered. Each and every victim is likely to be severely traumatised and usually ashamed and embarrassed, particularly if the abuse takes the form of sexual abuse. It will affect them for the rest of their lives and they may never recover. They will need sensitive and empathetic counselling and a lot of support. We must be alive to the reality that when they themselves become adults, and potentially parents, their experiences will shape the way they parent and steps need to be taken when dealing with victims that such behaviour is not normalised, sothat they themselves become abusers.

Every one of us has a right to dignity and respect and this is enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights and its various articles.

In some cases victims may be able to seek compensation against authorities that have failed to protect them in circumstances where they were under a duty so to do. These cases have spawned a growth in child abuse compensation claims.

Professionals working with vulnerable children need to be trained to listen more carefully when complaints are made and must take those complaints seriously and then action them. It takes great courage to come forward and make a complaint but for this to be ignored only adds insult to injury for the victim.

Every effort must be made to protect children and young people from such ruinous abuse as they will be the adults of the future. Government and all organisations with an interest need to sit down and consider how children and young people can be better protected from what can only be described as a worldwide epidemic.

Read the full report here.

Photo of Clifton Park in Rotherham by Chris via Flickr

Mark Christie

Mark Christie is the head of Stowe Family Law’s dedicated Children’s Department. Mark has specialised in family law for more than 30 years and provides clients with a wealth of practical experience.

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15 comments

Carol Bird - August 27, 2014 at 2:37pm

One question Mr Christie dealing with We need to focus on the effects of abuse,
Are the perpetrators (now behind bars) getting help with the reson as to why they did these crimes, and are they questioned under the same suspicion of being victims of sexual abuse that have gone on to become perpetrators? If not WHY Not

Anonymous - August 28, 2014 at 9:15am

I’m outraged that we have a judiciary working hand in hand with the government that – for purely economic reasons – removes fathers from the lives of children after parental separation and thereby makes children like this so vulnerable. If anybody should be put on trial here, it is those judges and spokespersons of single-parent charities that are relentless in their attack on fathers who only want to do their job of protecting their children. This collusion on the part of the authorities has resulted in so much exploitation. It’s time that people who really care address the roots of the problem. Are there any such people?

JamesB - August 29, 2014 at 1:05pm

Reminds me of the case of Lucie Blackman. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/oct/01/ukcrime.japan

The similarity with Lucie Blackman is that the establishment including the courts in England and Wales alienate the children from the fathers. Like with Lucie, all the father could do to state his disgust was to sign.

I have also heard more children on radio then I would like slagging off their absentee fathers.

I have also heard people on the radio saying we need to look at this paedophilia issue, rather than targeting the Pakistani community. Especially non resident white fathers.

A lot of what is said is nonsense. I agree with Anonymous that the answer has to be to get more parents to stay together and a better society. One thing the Pakistanis do have in this country is family, you don’t see Pakistani children being sexually exploited like that. We can and should learn from that.

JamesB - August 29, 2014 at 1:10pm

Thinking about it I don’t want the indigenous people of England to be like the Pakistani’s, I want each to learn from each other. They (/we) could and perhaps should learn how to stay together a bit more, and the Pakistanis can look at not raping children and ‘honor’ killings and cousins marrying as much. Some examples that come to mind.

JamesB - August 29, 2014 at 1:20pm

Not good news this, can see why people don’t like to talk about it, difficult subjects where the culprits can be single mothers and Pakistanis and people don’t feel able to criticise them, easier to blame non resident fathers. Wrong though. People shouldn’t think in cliché’s and black and white so much. We can learn from each other. This behaviour in Rotherham and elsewhere is bad. So is so much family breakdown and arguing in the indigenous population.

We shouldn’t just blame the police. The cause is disharmony in the family in this country and that needs to improve to stop so many children being so vulnerable.

JamesB - August 29, 2014 at 1:20pm

A very difficult subject. I can see why people don’t like talking about it.

JamesB - August 29, 2014 at 1:30pm

There was also torture and more suffered by the victims.

anon - August 30, 2014 at 8:56am

Pam Allen who was head of Children’s Services at Rotherham is still currently Head of Children’s Services at East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Graham Stuart the local MP , and Chair of Education Select Committee ( responsible for children in care) has called for her resignation.

JamesB - August 30, 2014 at 2:14pm

1. People need to be held to account.
2. Need to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

JamesB - August 30, 2014 at 2:17pm

I would think the local council and the police need to look at sorting this out. I say that as they can’t blame national government as the activities are illegal and in no way condoned by government policy, or indeed the spirit of government policy.

I heard Asian man on radio say the same, they need to be subject to the same law and order as everyone else as they don’t want to be written off as paedos etc also.

The police and council need to sort themselves out in this regard completely.

JamesB - August 30, 2014 at 2:19pm

If a ship runs aground the captain will (or at least should) take responsibility for that happening and measures will be taken to stop it happening again. The same needs to apply to this subject.

JamesB - August 30, 2014 at 2:20pm

Having lived in Yorkshire myself, the goings on are and have been a disgrace.

sue - August 30, 2014 at 7:06pm

What appears to have been missed is that Pam Allen former head of Rotherham Children’s Services during this time is still a head of Children’s Services at East Riding of Yorkshire. She has already failed so many vulnerable children/ families so why is she still in a position to do so?
Is it not about time for heads to roll?

JamesB - August 30, 2014 at 10:03pm

Yes, people should be held accountable and as you say heads roll.

Stitchedup - September 1, 2014 at 10:06am

This sad case goes to show how incredibly dangerous and unjust blind political correctness can be. In this instance perpetrators were not apprehended due to racially motivated political correctness. Unfortunately we often see the opposite side of the coin and many other cases of injustice where perfectly decent people are convicted as a result of feminist motivated political correctness.

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