Chris Longley Reaction to Home Affairs Select Committee report on localised child grooming

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
Councillor Wright.

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.

Kind regards

Chris Longley MBE

7 thoughts on “Chris Longley Reaction to Home Affairs Select Committee report on localised child grooming

  1. There should, of course, be resignations, apologies and an investigation of those who have deliberately covered up this scandal for years. Rotherham is a rotten borough and Labour has attempted, in the past, to put a sticking plaster on the festering pustule of corruption which continues to seep in every corner of the establishment there.
    No wonder there was so much hostility and resistance towards the arrival of the Respect Party last year when I said child grooming should become a major election issue. Instead of accusing me of being Islamaphobic, Labour councillors should have followed my lead and launched a full investigation into the failings of the local authority, police and other agencies.
    Labour’s NEC should now order an independent inquiry to find out how far the cover ups and corruption have extended and why, and question closely those who seek higher office … until all the issues raised by the Home Affairs Select Committee are answered, a cloud of suspicion must hang over those councillors who’ve chosen to remain silent. They are not fit to represent the electorate in Rotherham in any capacity until the answers behind this conspiracy of silence are resolved.
    Respect has now established a branch in Rotherham and will continue to campaign for transparency in this and many other far-reaching issues which are of concern to the good people of Rotherham. Our platform is for peace, equality and justice, something which has not been in evidence there for many years.

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  2. I do not know Chris Longley, but I would like to congratulate him on his tenacity in this matter and the sterling work he has done. If the Labour Councillors and Shaun Wright in particular, had have shown a fraction of the interest that Chris Longley has, many young girls would not have had to suffer as they have done.

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  3. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear Peter Thirlwall

    Thank you for your kind words and for your support.

    I hope that the extracts from the Home Affairs Committee helped people to understand what happened during these years of child sexual exploitation, how traumatic these events were for the children who suffered, how those in power with the duty and the ability to help the children did not do so, and how to this day there is a veil still drawn over the half a decade during which Ex-Councillor Wright held office as Cabinet Member for Children in Rotherham MB Council.

    You and the other readers of this blog will be interetsed to know that I have not yet received a reply of any kind to my FOI request to Rotherham MBC for the release to me of the agendas minutes and reports of the Child Safeguarding Board and of any other associated RMBC Committees between 2006 and 2010.

    Kind regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  4. From Chris Longley MBE

    PUBLIC MEETINGS IN SOUTH YORKSHIRE AT WHICH THE POLICE AND CRIME COMMISSIONER, SHAUN WRIGHT, WILL BE APPEARING

    The Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, is committed to a series of public consultation meetings in June. Here are the details as set out currently on the SYPCC website.

    Public Surgery – Sheffield – June
    14/06/2013 (17:00-18:30)
    Sheffield Town Hall
    PCC Public Appearance

    Public Surgery – Rotherham – June
    28/06/2013 (17:00-18:30)
    Rotherham Town Hall
    PCC Public Appearance

    Public Surgery – Barnsley – July
    26/07/2013 (17:00-18:30)
    18 Regent Street, Barnsley, SYJS
    PCC Public Appearance

    Rothpol readers may find this information useful if they have questions that they wish to ask the Commissioner.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Kind regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  5. Well done Chris you have summed it all up the only thing I would add is that Kimber, Thacker should be Sacked now with no golden hand shake nothing
    And Stone, Wright, and all the rest who was part of the cover up should be put in front of a meaning full standards board for bringing shame on them selves and the town.and banned from standing for public office they have forfited that right by their actions or lack of
    And not forgetting the senior police officers involved.

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    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Caven

      Thank you for your comments on these grave issues. I share your disquiet.

      But I have never called for any Rotherham MBC employee to be disciplined, let alone sacked or forced into retirement etc. Nor will I do so.

      Nor have I suggested to any political body that they should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any of their elected members, whether of Rotherham MBC or against others such as the Police and Crime Commissioner. I have, however, suggested that investigations should take place to establish fact. Let me set out why.

      There is good reason for this approach: there has to be proof of actions or inactions by such people in power that can be proven and therefore be taken lawfully as the basis for such disciplinary actions. As I write this entry to the Rothpol blog, Rotherham MBC have not made available in the public domain any such proof or evidence.

      I still await their response to my FOI request, for which the due “20 day response” is actually today.

      Some may say that this approach is offering a process of fairness denied to all the young girls who were so gravely assaulted, raped and trafficked over at least half a decade.

      But bad practices and bad judgements in one area of the justice system can never provide the excuse for the summary use in another area of arbitrary disciplinary practices that would be just as badly based. Successful appeals by those affected would be virtually guaranteed.

      So it may take time, but I have lots of time and patience (and so do many others!).

      We will unearth what these people knew, when they knew it and what they did or did not do. And if there is no self-started Judicial Inquiry in Rotherham into these dreadful matters, there will be one imposed on Rotherham some day. For sure.

      I just hope it does not take 23 years.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

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  6. Caven voice your concerns at every opportunity and raise the lack of action from RMBC who allowed vulnerable children to be abused all because they would not stand up to the PC brigade.

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