Report finds 1,400 children sexually exploited in northern English city

‘Collective’ fault cited in rapes, violence over a 16-year span


Share with others:


Print Email Read Later

LONDON — About 1,400 chil­dren were sex­u­ally ex­ploited in a north­ern En­gland town, a re­port con­cluded Tues­day in a damn­ing ac­count of “col­lec­tive fail­ures” by au­thor­i­ties to pre­vent vic­tims as young as 11 from be­ing beaten, raped and traf­ficked over a 16-year pe­riod.

Re­port au­thor Alexis Jay cited ap­pall­ing acts of vi­o­lence be­tween 1997 and 2013 in Rother­ham, a city of some 250,000.

The in­de­pen­dent re­port came af­ter a se­ries of con­vic­tions of sex­ual pred­a­tors in the re­gion and ground-break­ing re­ports in the Times of Lon­don.

Read­ing de­scrip­tions of the abuse makes it hard to imag­ine that noth­ing was done for so long. The re­port de­scribed rapes by mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors, mainly from Brit­ain’s Paki­stani com­mu­nity, and how chil­dren were traf­ficked to other towns and cit­ies in the north of En­gland, ab­ducted, beaten and in­tim­i­dated.

“There were ex­am­ples of 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,” Ms. Jay said. “Girls as young as 11 were raped by large num­bers of male per­pe­tra­tors.”

The re­port’s au­thor did not re­lease the iden­ti­ties of the chil­dren, but of­fered a gen­eral de­scrip­tion of the cases show­ing that the vic­tims were be­tween 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls preyed upon by un­re­lated older men.

A sam­pling of case stud­ies showed that the vic­tims first came into con­tact with au­thor­i­ties for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing be­ing re­ported miss­ing from their homes, leav­ing school with un­known men or as stalk­ing vic­tims. While most vic­tims in the older cases were de­scribed as “white Brit­ish chil­dren,” the re­port said that more re­cently, a greater num­ber of cases were com­ing from the grow­ing Paki­stani, Kash­miri and Roma com­mu­ni­ties.

At­ten­tion first fell on Rother­ham in 2010, when five men re­ceived lengthy jail terms af­ter con­vic­tions for groom­ing teens for sex. A se­ries of other high-pro­file cases fea­tur­ing Paki­stani rings also emerged in Roch­dale, Derby and Ox­ford— and com­mu­ni­ties be­gan to look more closely at their child sex-ex­ploitation cases. Rother­ham de­cided to con­duct a for­mal in­quiry, and Ms. Jay, a for­mer chief so­cial work ad­viser to the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, was ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate. But she told the BBC that she was “very shocked” by what she found.

Even though ear­lier re­ports de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion in Rother­ham, the first of these re­ports was “ef­fec­tively sup­pressed” be­cause se­nior of­fi­cers did not be­lieve the data. “The col­lec­tive fail­ures of po­lit­i­cal and of­fi­cer lead­er­ship were bla­tant,” Ms. Jay said. “From the be­gin­ning, there was grow­ing ev­i­dence that child sex­ual ex­ploitation was a se­ri­ous prob­lem in Rother­ham.”

Com­pli­cat­ing the re­port­ing was the fact that vic­tims de­scribed the per­pe­tra­tors as “Asian,” and yet the coun­cil failed to en­gage with the town’s Paki­stani com­mu­nity. “Sev­eral staff de­scribed their ner­vous­ness about iden­ti­fy­ing the eth­nic or­i­gins of per­pe­tra­tors for fear of be­ing thought rac­ist; oth­ers re­mem­bered clear di­rec­tion from their man­ag­ers not to do so,” Ms. Jay said.

Rother­ham has had its prob­lems even be­fore Tues­day’s re­port. It has seen the loss of tra­di­tional in­dus­tries from the 19th and 20th cen­tu­ries, and, though the lo­cal econ­omy has grown re­cently, it is also marked by depri­va­tion and high un­em­ploy­ment.

“It is hard to imag­ine the dam­age caused to vic­tims who were preyed upon with al­most im­pu­nity over many years, be­cause of a re­luc­tance to com­pre­hend or ad­dress what was widely hap­pen­ing,” said John Cameron, head of the help­line for the Na­tional So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to Chil­dren.

The lo­cal coun­cil leader, Roger Stone, re­signed im­me­di­ately.

Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron’s Down­ing Street of­fice said the les­sons of past fail­ures must be learned and those who ex­ploited the chil­dren brought to justice.

england - london - Europe - Western Europe - United Kingdom - David Cameron - United Kingdom government - Roger Stone


Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

You have 2 remaining free articles this month

Try unlimited digital access

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here

You’ve reached the limit of free articles this month.

To continue unlimited reading

If you are an existing subscriber,
link your account for free access. Start here