FROM CHRIS LONGLEY MBE
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT OF THE HOME AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE: ‘CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND THE RESPONSE TO LOCALISED GROOMING’
1 THE REPORT
Here is the link to the Report of the Home Affairs Committee:
2nd Report – Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming – Volume I
Overall it depicts a national disgrace: it sets out starkly the disregard by the responsible bodies for the safety of our children from the sexual exploitation, trafficking and cruelty that have damaged so many young lives.
It singles out Rotherham and Rochdale for special criticism in these respects.
2 THE FINDINGS OF THE REPORT IN RESPECT OF ROTHERHAM AND ABOUT EX-COUNCILLOR WRIGHT NOW THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER FOR SOUTH YORKSHIRE
Below are the main findings of the Report where they apply directly to Rotherham and to
You will find few comments from me because I think the Home Affairs Committee Report can
speak for itself.
2.1 ABOUT THE ROTHERHAM CONTEXT
Para 56 sets the Rotherham context: “Despite improvements in their response to child sexual exploitation, we remain concerned by the actions of both councils (Rochdale and Rotherham: CJL). Rotherham in particular has failed to secure any prosecutions since 2010 and we are doubtful about whether the child sexual exploitation training and working group meetings are actually taking place. We therefore recommend that further Ofsted reviews take place for Rotherham over the next two years to ensure that the changes they are implementing are not just cosmetic. The first should take place by December 2013. At least one Ofsted review in respect of Rochdale would also be appropriate.”
2.2 ROCHDALE AND ROTHERHAM
Conclusions paragraph 13: “Both Rochdale and Rotherham Councils were inexcusably slow to realise that the widespread, organised sexual abuse of children, many of them in the care of the local authority, was taking place on their doorstep. This is due in large part to a woeful lack of professional curiosity or indifference, from the council Chief Executive (in Rochdale) who claims to have known nothing about the problem during his first decade in post, to the Director of Children’s Services (in Rotherham) who saw prosecution of sex offenders as a desirable but ancillary goal, through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (in Rotherham) which tried to suppress criticisms in a Serious Case Review, to the individual practitioners who, in a chilling confirmation of the abusers’ blackmail and threats, dismissed the victims—children as young as 12—as ‘prostitutes’. That it took so long for anybody, at any level from the Chief Executive downward, to look at reports of young girls with multiple, middle-aged ‘boyfriends’, hanging around takeaways, drinking and taking drugs, and to think that it might be worth investigating further, is shocking. Because of the widespread publicity, not least due to the investigative journalism of Andrew Norfolk in The Times and the subsequent public outrage, both local authorities now recognise the nature and extent of localised grooming, and have made improvements to the way that they deal with children and young people who are at risk of sexual exploitation. However, it is clear that senior leadership in both Rochdale and Rotherham councils (where Ex-Councillor Wright was the Cabinet Member for children) failed in their duty of care towards these girls. We are surprised that, with child sexual exploitation remaining a problem in Rotherham, the council was considered to have made sufficient progress to have its notice to improve lifted by the Department for Education in 2011. (Paragraph 55).”
A comment from Chris Longley: In the detailed section at paragraph 51 about Rochdale there is a table of dates and events. It sets out the detail of what happened and when, and in effect of “who knew what and what they did or did not do about it”. This is clearly based on evidence supplied by Rochdale Council after the appointment of their new Chief Executive Jim Taylor. There is no such table of events and actions for Rotherham, and no source data from Rotherham on which such a table could be based is listed in the written evidence the Committee received.
Conclusions Paragraph 14: “When victims such as Emma Jackson (a Rotherham girl) approached the authorities for help, many were treated in an appalling manner. Even reports by frontline health workers were ignored. It is no excuse for Rochdale and Rotherham managers to say they had no knowledge of what was taking place, as they are ultimately responsible and must be held accountable for the appalling consequences of their lack of curiosity. Early retirement or resignation for other reasons should not allow them to evade responsibility and they must be held to account. In particular, we are deeply shocked by Roger Ellis’ receiving £76,798.20 in redundancy payout (the former Rochdale Chief Executive; CJL). He should be required to repay it. Despite improvements in their response to child sexual exploitation, we remain concerned by the actions of both councils. Rotherham in particular has failed to secure any prosecutions since 2010 and we are doubtful about whether the child sexual exploitation training and working group meetings are actually taking place. We therefore recommend that further Ofsted reviews take place for Rotherham over the next two years to ensure that the changes they are implementing are not just cosmetic. The first should take place by December 2013. At least one Ofsted review in respect of Rochdale would also be appropriate. (Paragraph 56)”
2.3 ABOUT EX-COUNCILLOR SHAUN WRIGHT
Paragraph 72. “We asked the newly-elected Policing and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, Shaun Wright, whether he had met with any victims of child sexual exploitation either in his previous role as Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People’s services between May 2005 and May 2010 or his current role as the PCC. He told us
“I do not believe it would have been appropriate for me to request to meet victims of child sexual exploitation as this would have been an invasion of the privacy of these vulnerable young victims.158
This is despite evidence that child sexual exploitation is occurring within South Yorkshire. (ref 159)”
Given that the issue around child sexual exploitation appears to be that people in positions of responsibility were failing to listen to the victims, we are surprised by Shaun Wright’s reluctance to engage with victims. Considering the lack of prosecutions for offences relating to child sexual exploitation in South Yorkshire, despite evidence that it is still occurring, we suggest Mr Wright may wish to take more of an interest in the victims then he has done previously.”
Paragraph 102 of the Home Affairs Committee Report may shed some light on Mr Wright’s reluctance to have any contact with girls and young people who were abused on his watch in Rotherham.
It reads thus: “Emma Jackson (a Rotherham girl; CJL) explained the impact of localised grooming and child sexual exploitation on her education.
“I had to leave education at 14. They excluded me because I was involved in sexual exploitation, and my last school report actually states that I was a child prostitute. Then they also did not want me on the premises because I was seen as a danger to other children and staff because if these men came to get me, then they could harm the children and staff also. (Ref 226) “
I wait to see if Councillor Wright maintains his silence.
2.4 ABOUT SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE IN THE PAST
Paragraph 73: “South Yorkshire Police have provided written evidence highlighting that in the past ten years, there have been 27 investigations in to localised grooming-related offences.(ref 160). “
2.5 ABOUT SOUTH YORKSHIRE POLICE NOW
Also paragraph 73: “They listed nearly 20 steps that they have taken to improve their response to child sexual exploitation, including multi-agency working, improved training for front-line staff, a greater focus on sexual exploitation at senior level, more resources and information about disruption of grooming activity, and a new missing persons IT system (ref 161). It has also been recently announced that South Yorkshire Police have been allocated funds to recruit ten new officers to focus on child sexual exploitation (ref 162).”
Paragraph 74: “Peter Davies of CEOP welcomed the steps taken by Chief Constable Crompton (ref163) and Andrew Norfolk (The Orwell Prize winning Times journalist who brought national attention to these dreadful abuses of children) emphasised the improvement in South Yorkshire Police’s response to child sexual exploitation. (Ref 164). However, we would expect such an improvement to translate in to successful prosecutions. We have heard evidence that South Yorkshire Police Force have previously let down victims of localised grooming and child sexual exploitation—as a result, we would expect the force to be striving to redeem their reputation. We do not believe that differences in the number of offenders could explain why Lancashire has 100 prosecutions a year whereas South Yorkshire has none. Such a postcode lottery is unacceptable. We believe it is the responsibility of the Chief Constable to ensure that investigations lead to prosecutions.
Paragraph 75: “We note that South Yorkshire has recently increased the number of officers working on localised grooming with funding for ten new officers announced. We expect that with this, alongside the many changes introduced in police forces across the country, we will see an improvement in the recording and prosecution of incidents of child sexual exploitation.”
2.6 ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Paragraphs 57 onward set out in some detail how the Courts and the Crown Prosecution Service treated the girls and boys who had been abused and concludes that both failed to deal appropriately with them and with their care during all the processes that led up to trials of those accused. In many cases it seems clear that the CPS took the view that prosecutions would not succeed because the girls in particular might not be credible witnesses under cross examination.
2.7 ABOUT THE ISSUE OF RACE
The Committee’s findings about the issue of race in these awful matters are covered by the Report from paragraph 108 onwards. I will make no attempt at a summary of any kind so I suggest that anybody with any interest in these matters should read it in full.
But it seems to me that paragraph 111 probably gets to the heart of the matter, and it quotes a Judge at a trial:
Paragraph 111: In May 2012, while sentencing those convicted of similar offences in Rochdale, the Judge noted that the offenders had claimed that the investigation was racially motivated:
“Some of you, when arrested, said it (the prosecution) was triggered by race. That is nonsense. … What triggered this prosecution was your lust and greed. (Ref 246)”
He also noted that the victims in the case had been treated as though they were worthless and beyond respect. He suggested that “one of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of [the defendants’] community or religion”. (Ref 247)
I hope this is helpful.
Chris Longley MBE