The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Report finds 1,400 children victims of sex exploitation in UK town over 16-year period

  • Print

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 town 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 make 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," Jay said. "Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators."

The report's author took great pains to make sure the identities of the children were not revealed, but offered a general description of the cases showing the victims were between 11 and 16 years old. Most, but not all, were girls, who are preyed upon by unrelated older men.

A sampling of case studies showed 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 victims of stalking. While most of the victims in the older cases were described as "white British children," but 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 of 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 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.

Police "regarded many child victims with contempt," Jay said, adding that many of the children were known to child protection agencies. 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," 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.

"Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away" Jay said. "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."

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. The report said the take-up of "welfare benefits is higher than the English average, as are the levels of free school meals and limiting long-term illness."

But news of the sheer scale of the abuse and the lack of official concern about the problem until it was exposed shocked the country. Charities that deal with abused children were taken aback by the number of victims and by the apparent reluctance of authorities to accuse members of one ethnic group for the violence.

This after all, is a country which prides itself as being a tolerant and integrated society. But the idea that a drive for political correctness might lead to children being raped sat uncomfortably with those who champion the rights of children and seek to protect them from harm.

"Cultural sensitivities should never stand in the way of protecting children," said John Cameron, head of the helpline for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "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."

The local council leader, Roger Stone, resigned immediately. Prime Minister David Cameron's Downing Street office said that the lessons of past failures must be learned and those who exploited the children brought to justice.

"This damning report shows the full extent of how the children of Rotherham were let down," said Keith Vaz, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. "They will never get their childhoods back."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Gail Asper says museum honours her father’s vision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you plan on attending any of the CMHR opening weekend events? (select all that apply)

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google