Aug. 26: Around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in one town over a 16-year period, a damning report has said.
The report on events in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, between 1997 and 2013 found that in more than a third of these cases the youngsters were already known to agencies. It said there had been “blatant” collective failures by Rotherham council’s leadership.
Council leader Roger Stone said: “Having considered the report, I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so.
“For this reason, I have today agreed with my Labour group colleagues that I will be stepping down as leader with immediate effect.” Despite Stone's resignation, chief executive Martin Kimber said no council officers will face disciplinary action.
Prof. Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, said she found 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”.
Prof. Jay said: “They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.”
She said she found that girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men.
The report said failures of the political and officer leadership of Rotherham Council over the first 12 years she looked at were “blatant” as the seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers and was not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire Police.
Prof. Jay said police “regarded many child victims with contempt”.
These failures happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 “which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham”.
She said the first of these reports was “effectively suppressed” because senior officers did not believe the data.
The other two were ignored, the professor said.
The report said: “By far the majority of perpetrators were described as ‘Asian’ by victims.”
But, she said, councillors seemed to think is was a one-off problem which they hoped would go away and “several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist”.
The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as “sexual predators”, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.