Star Editor – Grooming, Sexual Exploitation – A response!

My response to @TheStarEditor including @Wit_xx @AlisonBoydell @gillradcliffe

Firstly, you should be commended for the paper’s vocal support of charities like Rape Crisis. Yes, you are right that more resources should be devoted to support for victims and no that is not your responsibility. I will let Alison address the issues raised by your lack of knowledge in this area, which you do, in fairness, admit.

I will address your points about your lack of coverage of the child sex grooming issue in Rotherham because let’s not forget that these were children. Our children. South Yorkshire children.

You appear to suggest that you “could do more”. A tentative apology? You tell me that you have to limit your resources because you cover a wide area. So, in Rotherham it is being alleged that 100 girls were abused in specific areas, in a particular way, by a specific section of the local community and that the local authority had chosen to cover up that abuse in favour of avoiding stirring up racial tension in the local communities.

This was brought into the public domain by The Times, a national newspaper and so there is little danger of libel for me, so not for you either.

All candidates were vociferously raising this during the Police and Crime Commissioner campaign. Except one. All knew that it was of vital concern to the people of Rotherham that such abuse should never be allowed to occur again and that those responsible for failings should face justice. Raising awareness was key. One of the candidates was accused sensationally on radio of complicity in this.More than once and by more than one other candidate.

You reported nothing. In fact you gave column inches to the candidate accused of failings professing his intentions to act in this area. You asked no questions of him regarding the allegations. You asked for no comment from the other candidates as fair reporting would demand.

That candidate subsequently became South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and the woman he presided over as cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services in Rotherham at the time of the child grooming scandal, Joyce Thacker is currently being hauled into the political and media spotlight for still further failings.

This was a news story any local journalist would die for surely? Not The Star. Too busy. Too complex. Too….well what? Because they are terrible excuses. Meanwhile, you also did nothing to remind Sheffield parents of the fact that these abuses took place in Meadowhall shopping centre amongst others, a place they may be allowing their young children to visit without any knowledge of this or any warning to be alert.

This was poor and biased journalism. What message is being sent to the children who have not as yet come forward? What about those being abused right now? Don’t bother? The local press don’t have the column inches for you? The local authority aren’t able to act as their hands are tied by lack of resources and the need to consider local sensitivities.

The police are in the hands of a man who is currently juggling that role with a role on the council that let you down?

Lots of heads should be hanging in shame over this. The price of criticising Rotherham Labour is high. But I will not hide away because it is more comfortable for me to say nothing. That would be cowardly and would be a huge betrayal of our children.

Vonny Watts

Reprinted with permission from,

5 thoughts on “Star Editor – Grooming, Sexual Exploitation – A response!

  1. Pure dynamite, Vonny Watts 🙂

    I had begun to feel like Robinson Crusoe on his island, but now I’ve discovered another set of footprints, and they’re not mine 🙂

    Welcome to the world of the Rovrum active and empowered citizen.

    We are not measured in terms of our size, but rather our effect. And that accolade comes from the RMBC Corn Fed Grunters, Muppets and Clowns who squirm like woodlice in the hot noon day sun when you turn over their cover stone and they scurry for cover 🙂

    There’s a lot more cover stones to turn over before we’re done. Don’t relent, don’t recant, don’t surrender, cos Town Hall Towers/Lubyanka is ripe for the turning 🙂

    To be sure, life in Rovrum won’t be the same after tomorrow, one way or the other 🙂


  2. Well said Vonny, you have to wonder was this conspiracy, cover up or cock up, for me it was the establishment looking after their own interests and not of the abused children, I had thought that certain parts of the local press were lazy to the point of negligence in their coverage of the grooming issue, The Star, Yorkshire Post, Rotherham Advertiser gave little or no coverage of the matter.

    Andrew Norfolk from the Times has been like a dog with a bone, doing what good investigative journalists do follow up leads, check their sources and publish stories that make a difference to people lives, sadly this lack of gritty journalism is totally absent in the local papers.

    For the record, on his Twitter account Cllr Akhtar takes issue with the work of the Times, I wonder why?

    Toby Foster on BBC Radio Sheffield stands out as one individual with a passion for raising the menace of grooming, a pity others did and do not follow his lead.

    Community cohesion was used by RMBC to stop the publication of information and reports, and all the while children were being abused, just how sick can you get?


    • I completely agree with your comments about Toby Foster and the rest of the team at BBC Radio Sheffield who asked equally difficult questions of ALL candidates at the time. I had no issue with the robust questions they asked. That is how journalism should be and I applaud them for it.


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