23rd AUGUST 2013
BY SWITALSKIS SOLICITORS CHILD ABUSE LAWYERS
Child Sex Abuse Scandal
Rotherham Council to be sued
A number of Rotherham women have instructed solicitors to sue Rotherham
Council for systemic failures to protect them from sexual abuse by predatory
men when they were children. The women have instructed Yorkshire
solicitors, Switalskis, to investigate claims following the publication of a report
into child sexual exploitation by the House of Commons Home Affairs
Committee earlier this year.
An article in The Times on 23 August 2013 has revealed that a child in the
care of Rotherham social services was allowed daily contact with a violent
adult offender who was suspected of grooming more than a dozen teenagers
to use and sell for sex. Andrew Norfolk said “The case lays bare a
catastrophic failure of child protection services in a town that gained notoriety
as Britain’s under-age sex capital after a spate of pregnancies among girls
barely into their teens.”
The Times revealed that before the relationship ended a social services
mapping exercise warned that the man was among a small group of men who
were suspected of involvement in the sexual exploitation of more than 40
young teenagers in Rotherham, including more than a dozen who expressed
their belief that the 24 year old man was their boyfriend.
In June 2013 the Home Affairs Committee report noted that those abused
were generally vulnerable girls aged between 12 and 16 and that a
disproportionate number were looked after by local authorities.
The report looked at localised grooming, a model of child sexual exploitation
in which a group of abusers target vulnerable children. The group typically
makes initial contact with victims in a public place. The children are offered
gifts and treats. The children sometimes identify one offender as a “boyfriend”,
and might regard the sexual abuse by multiple offenders as “normal”. The
gangs sometimes use younger men or boys to make the initial approach.
In summary, the report noted that:
the abused child might see the situation as a genuine relationship and
the groomer as a “boyfriend”;
the abuser typically plays on the child’s insecurities, making them feel
“special” or “loved”;
the child might nonetheless feel ashamed of the sexual activity itself; or
ancillary activities such as the consumption of drugs or alcohol, further
increasing their reluctance to come forward;
the grooming might extend to befriending the child’s family or carers,
so the child feels unable to tell them about the situation.
Leading child abuse lawyer David Greenwood of Switalskis, acting for some
of the abused girls, said: “It is important to remember that at the time of the
abuse they were children under the age of 16 and could not legally consent.
The report noted part of the problem is that adults may misunderstand the
grooming process and assume that the young person was a willing participant
in a relationship, rather than the victim of sexual abuse”.
In the conclusions to the report the Home Affairs Committee criticised
Rotherham Council for being “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. The
report said that this was due to a “woeful lack of professional curiosity
or indifference” and to dismissing “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.”
The Home Affairs Committee concluded it was clear that senior
leadership in Rotherham Council “failed in their duty of care towards
Martin Kimber, Chief Executive of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council,
told The Times that the town’s “services to safeguard young people prior to
2009 were simply not good enough” and said that the council had already
apologised “to all young people … who were let down”.
David Greenwood, solicitor of Switalskis said “It is very likely that my clients
will be taking legal action against the Rotherham Council and potentially the
police for failing to protect them over a long period of time”.
Switalskis have a large team of lawyers who are specialists in child abuse
claims. The team has been successful in securing compensation in many
complex child abuse claims, including large group actions.
For further information contact David Greenwood, Jim Gladman or
Helen Hughes on 01709 890400 or e mail
1 The report into child sexual exploitation by the House of Commons Home
Affairs Committee dated 5 June 2013 can be found at
2 A transcript of the oral evidence given by Martin Kimber (Chief Executive,
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council) and Joyce Thacker (Strategic
Director of Children’s and Young People’s Services, Rotherham Metropolitan
Borough Council) before the Home Affairs Committee on 8 January 2013 can
be found at
3 A transcript of the oral evidence given by Andrew Norfolk of The Times
before the Home Affairs Committee on 4 December 2012 can be found at