Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal

The Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal consists of the organised child sexual abuse that occurred in the town of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, Northern England from the late 1980s until present and the failure of local authorities to act on reports of the abuse throughout most of that period.[9] Researcher Angie Heal, who was hired by local officials and warned them about child exploitation occurring between 2002 and 2007, has since described it as the "biggest child protection scandal in UK history".[10] Evidence of the abuse was first noted in the early 1990s, when care home managers investigated reports that children in their care were being picked up by taxi drivers.[11] From at least 2001, multiple reports passed names of alleged perpetrators, several from one family, to the police and Rotherham Council. The first group conviction took place in 2010, when five British-Pakistani men were convicted of sexual offences against girls aged 12–16.[12] From January 2011 Andrew Norfolk of The Times pressed the issue, reporting in 2012 that the abuse in the town was widespread and that the police and council had known about it for over ten years.[a]

Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal
Rotherham town centre, March 2010
LocationRotherham, South Yorkshire, England
Coordinates53°25′48″N 1°21′25″W / 53.430°N 1.357°W / 53.430; -1.357
EventsChild sexual abuse of an estimated 2,000 (1970s–present, according various report including Jayne Senior) majority aged approximately 11–16.[1]
ReporterAndrew Norfolk of The Times, with information from Jayne Senior, youth worker[2]
InquiriesHome Affairs Committee (2013–2014)[3]
Jay inquiry (2014)[4]
Casey inquiry (2015)[5]
TrialsSheffield Crown Court, 2010, 2016–2017, convictions for rape, conspiracy to rape, aiding and abetting rape, sexual intercourse with a girl under 13, indecent assault, false imprisonment, procurement. Numerous individual prosecutions regarding child sexual exploitation over the years, including 8 in 2012, 9 in 2013, and 1 in the first quarter of 2014[6]
Convictionsc. 60 (rising) Operation Central: 5 men
Operation Clover: 18 men & 2 women
Operation Stovewood: 21 men (trials ongoing as of August 2019)
AwardsAndrew Norfolk: Orwell Prize (2013), Journalist of the Year (2014)[7]
Jayne Senior: MBE (2016 Birthday Honours)[8]

The Times articles, along with the 2012 trial of the Rochdale child sex abuse ring, prompted the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee to conduct hearings.[15] Following this and further articles from Norfolk, Rotherham Council commissioned an independent inquiry led by Professor Alexis Jay. In August 2014 the Jay report concluded that an estimated 1,400 children[16] had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by British-Pakistani men.[14] The victims were ethnically diverse; with British Asian girls in Rotherham also suffering,[17] despite the myth that the victims were only white. Social isolation and fear of dishonour prevented Asian victims from coming forward.[18]

BBC News (29 August 2014): "A care worker, who worked at children's homes from 2003–2007, told the BBC men would arrive almost 'every night' to collect girls, who escaped using a range of methods and were then usually driven off in taxis."[19]}} The abuse included gang rape, forcing children to watch rape, dousing them with petrol and threatening to set them on fire, threatening to rape their mothers and younger sisters, as well as trafficking them to other towns.[20] There were pregnancies (one at age 12), pregnancy terminations, miscarriages, babies raised by their mothers, in addition to babies removed, causing further trauma.[21][22][23][24]

The failure to address the abuse was attributed to a combination of factors revolving around race, class, religion and gender—fear that the perpetrators' ethnicity would trigger allegations of racism; contemptuous and sexist attitudes toward the mostly working-class victims; lack of a child-centred focus; a desire to protect the town's reputation; and lack of training and resources.[25][26][9]

Rotherham Council's chief executive, its director of children's services, as well as the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire Police all resigned.[27] The Independent Police Complaints Commission and the National Crime Agency both opened inquiries, the latter expected to last eight years.[28][29] The government appointed Louise Casey to conduct an inspection of Rotherham Council.[30] Published in January 2015, the Casey report concluded that the council had a bullying, sexist culture of covering up information and silencing whistleblowers; it was "not fit for purpose".[31] In February 2015 the government replaced the council's elected officers with a team of five commissioners.[32] As a result of new police inquiries, 19 men and two women were convicted in 2016 and 2017 of sexual offences in the town dating back to the late 1980s; one of the ringleaders was jailed for 35 years.[33]

Background edit

Rotherham edit

Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham within South Yorkshire and England

With a population of 109,691, according to the 2011 census—55,751 female and 24,783 aged 0–17—Rotherham is the largest town within the South Yorkshire Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham.[34][b] Around 11.9 per cent of the town belonged to black and minority ethnic groups,[34] compared to eight per cent of the borough (population 258,400). Three per cent of the borough belonged to the Pakistani-heritage community.[35] There were 68,574 Christians in the town in 2011, 23,909 with no religion, 8,682 Muslims, 7,527 not stated, and a small number of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Buddhists.[34] Unemployment in the borough was above the national average, and 23 per cent of homes consisted of social housing.[36]

The area has traditionally been a Labour stronghold, and until Sarah Champion was elected in 2012 it had never had a female MP.[37] The council was similarly male-dominated; one Labour insider told The Guardian in 2012: "The Rotherham political class is male, male, male."[38] In May 2014 there were 63 elected members on Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council: 57 Labour, four Conservatives, one UKIP and one Independent. The elections in August that year saw a swing to UKIP: 49 Labour, 10 UKIP, 2 Conservatives and 2 Independents.[36] The government disbanded the council in 2015 after the Casey report and replaced it with a team of five commissioners.[39]

Terminology edit

The term child sexual exploitation (CSE) was first used in 2009 in a Department for Education document.[40][41] Intended to replace the term child prostitution, which implied a level of consent, CSE is a form of child sexual abuse in which children are offered something—money, drugs, alcohol, food, a place to stay, or even just affection—in exchange for sexual activity. Violence and intimidation are common.[41] Adele Gladman and Angie Heal, authors of early reports on the Rotherham abuse, argue that describing vaginal, oral and anal rape, murder and attempted murder as "exploitation" does not help people understand the seriousness of the crimes.[42]

CSE includes online grooming and localised grooming, formerly known as on-street grooming.[41][43] Localised grooming involves a group of abusers targeting vulnerable children in a public place, offering them sweets, alcohol, drugs and takeaway food in exchange for sex.[44] The targets can include children in the care of the local authority; in Rotherham, one third of the targeted children were previously known to social services.[45]

According to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in 2013, the first contact might be made by other children, who hand the target over to an older man. One of the adult perpetrators becomes the "boyfriend", but the girl is used for sex by the larger group and comes to view this as the norm. The abuse can involve being gang raped by dozens of men during one event. Victims are often trafficked to other towns, where sexual access to the child might be "sold" to other groups.[c] According to one victim, the perpetrators prefer children aged 12–14. As they get older, the group loses interest and may expect the child to supply younger children in exchange for continued access to the group, on which the child has come to rely for drugs, alcohol, a social life, "affection" or even a home.[46]

Ongoing Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) issue in Rotherham edit

Children are still being sexually exploited by grooming gangs in all parts of England and Wales in the "most degrading and destructive ways", a report has found.The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said assumptions that abuse had fallen since high-profile cases in Rotherham and Rochdale were "flawed".[47]

Times report 2016 still happening edit

In 2016 it was reported by the Times how organised, criminal gangs of paedophiles are still using the town as their own personal fiefdom, peddling underage girls for sex as part of a multi-million pound crime empire. The men are predominantly from the city of Mirpur in the disputed region of Kashmir, on the border between Pakistan and India.[48]

Risky Business edit

Jayne Senior, formerly of Risky Business, after receiving an MBE in 2016 for her work

The earliest reports of localised grooming in Rotherham date to the early 1990s, when several managers of local children's homes set up the "taxi driver group" to investigate reports that taxis driven by Pakistani men[49] were arriving at care homes to take the children away. The police apparently declined to act.[11][36]

In 1997 Rotherham Council created a local youth project, Risky Business, to work with girls and women aged 11–25 thought to be at risk of sexual exploitation on the streets.[50][51] Jayne Senior, awarded an MBE in the 2016 Birthday Honours for her role in uncovering the abuse, began working for Risky Business as a coordinator around July 1999.[52][53] The users were overwhelmingly white girls: of the 268 who used the project from March 2001 to March 2002, 244 were white, 22 were British-Asian, and 2 were black.[54]

Senior began to find evidence around 2001 of what appeared to be a localised-grooming network. Most Risky Business clients had previously come from Sheffield, which had a red-light district. Now the girls were younger and came from Rotherham. Girls as young as 10 were being befriended, perhaps by children their own age, before being passed to older men who would rape them and become their "boyfriends". Many of the girls were from troubled families, but not all. The children were given alcohol and drugs, then told they had to repay the "debt" by having sex with other men. The perpetrators set about obtaining personal information about the girls and their families—where their parents worked, for example—details that were used to threaten the girls if they tried to withdraw. Windows at family homes were smashed; threats were made to rape mothers and younger sisters. The children came to believe that the only way to keep their families safe was to cooperate.[d][55][56]

One girl who came to the attention of Risky Business was repeatedly raped from age 13–15, and believed her mother would be the next victim: "They used to follow my mum because they used to know when she went shopping, what time she had been shopping, where she had gone."[57][55] A 15-year-old was told she was "one bullet" away from death.[58] Girls were doused in petrol and told they were about to die.[59] When she told her "pimp" that she was pregnant and did not know who the father was, one 15-year-old was beaten unconscious with a clawhammer.[60] A 12-year-old with a 24-year-old "boyfriend" had a mother who invited the perpetrators into the family home, where the girl would give the men oral sex for 10 cigarettes.[58]

According to Senior, Risky Business ended up with so much information about the perpetrators that the police suggested she start forwarding it to an electronic dropbox, "Box Five", on the South Yorkshire Police computer network. They reportedly told her this would protect the identity of Risky Business's sources.[61] She learned later that the police had not read the reports she had left there, and it apparently could not be accessed by other forces.[56][62]

Risky Business was seen as a "nuisance"[63][64] and shut down by the council[65][66] in 2011.[67]

Issues of ethnicity and religion edit

The Jay inquiry estimated that there may be 1,400 victims. Although the inquiry did not specify the ethnicity of the victims or the perpetrators, the authors noted that in a large number of historic cases in particular, most of the victims they sampled were white British while the perpetrators were from ethnic minority communities.[e] However the report also specified other, less investigated cases in which Asian minority women were the primary victims,[69] despite the myth that the victims were only white. Social isolation and fear of dishonour prevented Asian victims from coming forward.[70]

Majority of victims white British girls aged 11 to 18 edit

In 2018 Operation Stovewood reported there were 1,510 potential victims, this higher than the Jay Report in 2014. Detectives said '260 – 17% – were speaking to officers but that police aimed to talk to every victim, and the vast majority of victims were white British girls aged 11 to 18'. Further that 80% of CSE suspects in Rotherham were males of Pakistani heritage.[71]

However, the Jay report published before Operation Stovewood stated that "there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation", and cited a 2013 report by Muslim Women's Network UK of British Asian girls being abused across the country in situations that mirrored the abuse in Rotherham.[f][73] According to the group, Asian victims may be particularly vulnerable to threats of bringing shame and dishonour on their families,[74] and may have believed that reporting the abuse would be an admission that they had violated their cultural beliefs.[75][76] The Jay report also noted that one of the local Pakistani women's groups had described Pakistani girls being targeted by Pakistani taxi drivers and landlords, but they feared reporting to the police out of concerns for their marriage prospects.[77] The report stated that "the under-reporting of exploitation and abuse in minority ethnic communities" should be addressed.[g]

The Jay report "found no evidence of children's social care staff being influenced by concerns about the ethnic origins of suspected perpetrators when dealing with individual child protection cases, including CSE".[78]

Pakistani leaders cover-up edit

Parveen Qureshi, director of the United Multicultural Centre in Rotherham claimed in 2014 'Pakistani community leaders in Rotherham were complicit in hushing up the shocking ‘ethnic’ dimensions of the sexual exploitation rather than speaking out'. She also stated 'the problem of Asian men abusing white girls was known ‘for a long time’.[79]

Ethnicity not being recorded by South Yorkshire Police edit

The force at the centre of the Rotherham grooming scandal is not routinely recording the ethnicity of child sexual abuse suspects, a newspaper has found. Rotherham, where hundreds were abused by gangs of South Asian men, omitted suspect ethnicity in 67% of cases. A report said Children as young as 11 were raped, trafficked, abducted, beaten, and intimidated, predominantly by men of Pakistani heritage.[80]

Weir report (2001) edit

Home Office pilot study edit

In 2000 Adele Weir (later Gladman), a Yorkshire solicitor, was hired by Rotherham Council as a research and development officer on a Home Office Crime Reduction Programme pilot study, "Tackling Prostitution: What Works".[81][82][83] A section of the study was devoted to "young people and prostitution", and three towns—Bristol, Sheffield and Rotherham—were to be highlighted in that section. Weir was employed to write the report on Rotherham. Part of her project's aim was: "Collection of information and evidence about men allegedly involved in coercing young women into prostitution with which it might be possible for the police to pursue investigations and/or prosecutions."[84]

Researchers at the University of Bedfordshire, including the social scientist Margaret Melrose, were involved as Home Office evaluators.[85] Weir's line manager was the manager of Risky Business, and she was placed in the Risky Business offices in Rotherham's International Centre, where she worked with Jayne Senior.[86][87][82] According to Weir, she encountered "poor professional practice from an early stage" from the council and police; child protection issues were, in her view, "disregarded, dismissed or minimized".[88][86]

Mapping exercise edit

In response to a complaint from police that evidence of child abuse in Rotherham was anecdotal, Weir compiled a 10-page mapping exercise in 2001 showing what appeared to be a local abuse network. In evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in 2014, she wrote that she had found "a small number of suspected abusers who were well known to all significant services in Rotherham."[89][90] Using material obtained by Risky Business, and from health services, social services, police records, a homelessness project, and substance-misuse services, Weir's report included names of suspects, the registration numbers of cars used to transport the girls, the suspects' links to local businesses and to people outside the area, and the relationships between the suspects and the girls. The suspects included members of the Hussain family, thought to be among the network's ringleaders, who were jailed in 2016. [91][92] Weir estimated at that point that there were 270 victims.[93]

Home Office report edit

Weir's report for the Home Office evaluators linked 54 abused children to the Hussain family, as of October 2001. Eighteen children had named one of those men, Arshid Hussain (then around 25), as their "boyfriend", and several had become pregnant.[94][95] One of the 18 girls—14 years old at the time—got pregnant twice. In 2014 she told Panorama that social workers had expressed concern about Hussain being around a baby because of his history of violence, but had not, according to the victim, expressed the same concern for her; she told Panorama that they maintained her relationship with him was consensual.[96] (In February 2016 Arshid Hussain was convicted of multiple rapes and jailed for 35 years.)[33]

The Weir report continued that members of the family were "alleged to be responsible for much of the violent crime and drug dealing in the town". They used untraceable mobile phones, the report said, had access to expensive cars, were linked to a taxi firm, and may have been involved in bed-and-breakfast hotels that were used by social services for emergency accommodation. Several girls sent to those hotels had complained of being offered money, as soon as they arrived, if they would have sex with several men. Other girls were targeted at train and bus stations.[54]

Weir handed her report to a South Yorkshire Police inspector; the only feedback was that it was "unhelpful".[97] According to the Jay report, one incident was, for Weir, the "final straw". A victim decided to file a complaint with the police. The perpetrators had smashed her parents' windows and broken her brothers' legs to stop her from reporting the rapes. Weir took her to the police station, but while there the victim received a text from the perpetrator to say he had her 11-year-old sister with him, and it was "your choice". This led the victim to believe someone had told the perpetrator she was at the police station, and she decided not to proceed with the complaint.[98] Following this, with the consent of her manager, Weir wrote in October 2001 to Mike Hedges, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, and to Christine Burbeary, the District Commander.[99][97] The letter said:

I have been visiting agencies, encouraging them to relay information to the police. Their responses have been identical—they have ceased passing on information as they perceive this to be a waste of time. Parents also have ceased to make missing person reports, a precursor to any child abduction investigation, as the police response is often so inappropriate. ... Children are being left at risk and their abusers unapprehended.[100][101]

The letter was not well received by the council or police.[102][103] During a meeting at Rotherham police station with senior police and council officials, they seemed incensed that Weir had written to the Chief Constable. Jayne Senior, who was present, said Weir was subjected to a "tirade that lasted I don't know how long".[104] According to Weir, at some point after this an official warned her against mentioning Asian men:

She said you must never refer to that again. You must never refer to Asian men. And her other response was to book me on a two-day ethnicity and diversity course to raise my awareness of ethnic issues.[93][104]

Files removed edit

Rotherham town centre, September 2016

At their request, Weir sent her data to the Home Office evaluators in Bedfordshire in April 2002. That Weir did this apparently upset the Risky Business manager.[105] On or around Monday, 18 April 2002, when she arrived at work, Weir discovered that over the weekend her Home Office pilot data had been removed from the filing cabinets in the Risky Business office.[h]

Weir said that the password-protected office computer had also been accessed. According to Weir's evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, documents had been deleted, and someone had created, on the computer, the minutes of meetings that Weir had purportedly attended, which showed her agreeing to certain conditions, such as not submitting data to Home Office evaluators without her line manager's consent. Weir told the committee that she had not agreed to those conditions or attended any such meeting; one of the meetings had taken place while she was on holiday overseas.[114]

Weir was told that social services, the police and education staff had met over the weekend, and had decided that Risky Business staff were "exceeding [their] roles".[115] Weir was suspended for having included in her report data from confidential minutes, an "act of gross misconduct"; she managed to negotiate a return to work by demonstrating that it was her manager who had passed those minutes to the Home Office evaluators.[99] She was told she would no longer have access to Risky Business data, meetings, or the girls, and in June 2002 she was asked to amend her report to "anonymise individuals and institutions and only include facts and evidence that you are able to substantiate".[115] The Jay report found the secrecy surrounding the report and the treatment of Weir "deeply troubling": "If the senior people concerned had paid more attention to the content of the report, more might have been done to help children who were being violently exploited and abused."[116][117]

Heal reports edit

2002 report edit

South Yorkshire Police headquarters, Snig Hill, Sheffield

In 2002–2007 South Yorkshire Police hired Angie Heal, a strategic drugs analyst, to carry out research on drug use and supply in the area.[118] Located in the drug strategy unit with two police officers, Heal wrote several reports during this period.[119][116] During her research in 2002 into the local supply of crack cocaine, she first encountered examples of organised child sexual abuse, and consulted Jayne Senior of Risky Business and Anne Lucas, the child exploitation service officer in Sheffield. Lucas explained that part of the grooming process was to give the children drugs.[120]

Heal's first report in 2002 recommended dealing with the child-abuse rings; if the evidence needed to prosecute the men for sex offences was lacking, they could be prosecuted for drugs offences instead, thereby keeping the children safe and getting the drugs off the street. Heal wrote in 2017 that her report was widely read, but she "could not believe the complete lack of interest" in the links she had provided between the local drug trade and child abuse.[120]

2003 report edit

Heal decided to continue researching the issue and included CSE in her bi-annual intelligence briefings. While Heal was preparing her second report, Sexual Exploitation, Drug Use and Drug Dealing: Current Situation in South Yorkshire (2003), Jayne Senior secretly shared with her Adele Weir's Home Office report from 2002. Heal wrote that she actually felt scared after she had read it, given the level of detail, the lack of interest, and the sidelining of Weir.[121]

Heal's 2003 report noted that Rotherham had a "significant number of girls and some boys who are being sexually exploited"; that the victims were being gang raped, kidnapped and subjected to other violence; that a significant number had become pregnant, and were depressed, angry and self-harming; and that Risky Business had identified four of the perpetrators as brothers.[122][123] Heal created two versions of her report. One was for wider distribution among officials. The second, for the police alone, contained the names of the perpetrators, obtained from Risky Business.[124][125]

2006 report edit

In 2005 a new department of children and young people's services was created, with Councillor Shaun Wright appointed cabinet member for the department,[126] and in March 2006 a conference was held in Rotherham, "Every Child Matters, But Do They Know it?", to discuss children's sexual exploitation.[127] Heal's third report, Violence and Gun Crime: Links with Sexual Exploitation, Prostitution and Drug Markets in South Yorkshire (2006), noted that the situation was continuing and involved "systematic physical and sexual violence against young women". The victims were being trafficked to other towns, and the violence used was "very severe". If the girls protested, the perpetrators threatened to involve the girls' younger sisters, friends and family.[128] There had also been an increase in reports of the perpetrators being seen with guns.[129]

In Heal's study, white made up the majority of identified victims in Yorkshire, targeted from age 11; the average age was 12–13. British-Asian girls were also targeted, but even less was known about the number of Asian victims, because their abuse was not part of the same scene, and therefore poorly understood by researchers. The most significant group of perpetrators of localised grooming were British-Asian men. Several employees dealing with the issue believed that the perpetrators' ethnicity was preventing the abuse from being addressed, Heal wrote.[130][131] One worker said that British-Asian taxi drivers in Rotherham had been involved for 30 years, but in the 1970s the crimes had not been organised. Heal added that a high-profile publicity campaign was underway about the trafficking of women from Eastern Europe, with posters in Doncaster Sheffield Airport, while the issue of local trafficking "appears to be largely ignored".[132] The report recommended: "More emphasis should be placed on tackling the abusers, rather than the abused."[132]

Heal sent her 2006 report to everyone involved in the Rotherham Drugs Partnership,[127] and to the South Yorkshire Police district commander and chief superintendents.[126][51] Shortly after this, according to the Jay report, Risky Business's funding was increased, and the council's Safeguarding Children Board approved an "Action Plan for responding to the sexual exploitation of children and young people in Rotherham".[127]

It became clear to Heal around this time that she was being sidelined. The drug strategy unit was disbanded, and she was told that several officers in her department were not supportive of her or her work. Given that she was reporting the rape of children, she writes that the lack of support "will never fail to astonish and sadden" her. She decided to leave the South Yorkshire Police in March 2007. Her 2003 and 2006 reports were released by South Yorkshire Police in May 2015 following a Freedom of Information Act request.[133][122][134]

Operation Central, trial (2010) edit

In 2008 South Yorkshire Police set up Operation Central to investigate the allegations.[103] As a result, eight men were tried at Sheffield Crown Court in October 2010 for sexual offences against girls aged 12–16. Four of the victims testified.[135] Five men were convicted, including two brothers and a cousin.[136][137] One of the brothers, Razwan Razaq, had a previous conviction for indecently assaulting a young girl in his car, and had breached a previous sexual offences prevention order.[137] His brother Umar appealed against his sentence and was released after nine months.[138] All five were placed on the sex offenders' register.[137]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
1 Razwan Razaq 30 Sexual activity with a child 11 years[136]
2 Umar Razaq 24 Sexual activity with a child 4 years, 6 months (later reduced on appeal)
3 Zafran Ramzan 21 Rape, sexual activity with a child 9 years
4 Mohsin Khan 21 Sexual activity with a child 4 years
5 Adil Hussain 20 Sexual activity with a child 4 years

The Times investigation edit

Background edit

Andrew Norfolk of The Times first wrote about localised grooming in 2003, after moving from London to Leeds, when he wrote a brief story about the Keighley child sex abuse ring. Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, had complained that "Asian men" were targeting teenage girls outside schools, while parents alleged that police and social services were declining to act. From then until 2010, Norfolk heard of court cases in northern England and the Midlands reporting a similar pattern.[49]

Court records showed 17 cases of localised grooming in 13 northern towns since 1997—14 since 2008—in which 56 men were convicted of sexual offences against girls aged 11–16.[139][140] Norfolk interviewed two of the affected families, and in January 2011 the first of a series of stories appeared over four pages in The Times, accompanied by an editorial, "Revealed: conspiracy of silence on UK sex gangs".[13] Norfolk told the Home Affairs Committee in 2013 that council staff and senior police officers called him to thank him; one director of children's services told him: "My staff are jumping for joy in the office today because finally somebody has said what we have not felt able to say."[141]

Murder of Laura Wilson edit

In 2012 Rotherham Council applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop Norfolk publishing an unredacted version of a serious case review written after the murder of a local girl, Laura Wilson.[142]

Known in the review as "Child S", Wilson was 17 in October 2010 when she was stabbed 40 times and thrown in the canal by her 17-year-old ex-boyfriend, Ashtiaq Asghar, an act the police called an "honour killing".[143][144][i] She had had a baby four months earlier by a 21-year-old married man. The families of the men, both Pakistani heritage, had apparently been unaware of the relationships and the existence of the child. Tired of being a secret, Wilson decided to tell them. Days later, the ex-boyfriend murdered her. Both men stood trial; the older man was acquitted, and Asghar was jailed for 17 years and six months.[144][146]

Assessed as having an IQ of 56 and a reading and spelling age of 6,[147] Wilson had been the target of localised grooming from at least age 11. The council had referred her to Risky Business three months after her 11th birthday,[142][148][46] and when she was 13, Wilson and her family had appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show to discuss children who were out of control.[149] She had also been mentioned in the 2009 criminal inquiry that led to the first five convictions arising out of localised grooming in Rotherham.[150]

The government ordered that the council publish its serious case review. It was published with passages blacked out on 61 of its 144 pages. Norfolk obtained an unredacted version, and found that the council had hidden the men's ethnicity, as well as Wilson's mention during the 2009 criminal inquiry, and the extent of the council's involvement in her care. Michael Gove, then education secretary, accused the council in June 2012 of withholding "relevant and important material".[150] After Gove's intervention, the council withdrew its legal action, and Norfolk published the story under the headline "Officials hid vital facts about men suspected of grooming girl for sex".[142][49]

September 2012 edit

Front page of The Times, 24 September 2012

On 24 September 2012 Norfolk wrote that the abuse in Rotherham was much more widespread than acknowledged, and that the police had been aware of it for over a decade. His story, "Police files reveal vast child protection scandal", was based on 200 leaked documents, some from Jayne Senior, such as case files and letters from police and social services. The documents included Adele Weir's 2001 report for the Home Office, which linked 54 abused children to the Hussain family; 18 of the children had called Arshid Hussain their "boyfriend".[14]

Cases highlighted by Norfolk included that of a 15-year-old having a broken bottle inserted into her; a 14-year-old being held in a flat and forced to have sex with five men; and a 13-year-old girl, "with disrupted clothing", found by police in a house at 3 am with a group of men who had given her vodka. A neighbour had called the police after hearing the girl scream. The girl was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, but the men were not questioned.[14][151]

The newspaper cited a 2010 report by the police intelligence bureau that said, locally and nationally, and particularly in Sheffield and Rotherham, "there appears to be a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females". South Yorkshire children were being trafficked to Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Dover, Manchester, and elsewhere, according to the police report.[14][152] A document from Rotherham's Safeguarding Children Board reporting that the "crimes had 'cultural characteristics ... which are locally sensitive in terms of diversity'":

There are sensitivities of ethnicity with potential to endanger the harmony of community relationships. Great care will be taken in drafting ...this report to ensure that its findings embrace Rotherham's qualities of diversity. It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided."[14]

In August 2013 Norfolk published the story of a 15-year-old Rotherham girl, later revealed to be Sammy Woodhouse,[153] who had been described in Adele Weir's report in 2001, and who was allowed by social services to maintain contact with Arshid Hussain, despite having been placed in care by her parents to protect her from him. (Hussain was jailed in 2016 for 35 years.) The girl had been made pregnant twice.[94] One of those "aware of the relationship", according to the Times, was Jahangir Akhtar, then Rotherham Council's deputy leader, reportedly a relative of Hussain's.[154] He resigned but denied the claims.[155] Akhtar was one of the officials later described in the Casey report as wielding considerable influence on the council and reportedly known for shutting down discussion about the sexual abuse.[156] Shortly after publication of the Times story, Rotherham Council commissioned the Jay inquiry.[154]

Home Affairs Committee edit

Hearings edit

The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee began hearing evidence about localised grooming in June 2012, as a result of the Rotherham convictions in 2010 (Operation Central), Andrew Norfolk's articles in the Times, and the Rochdale child sex abuse ring (Operation Span), which saw 12 men convicted in May 2012.[157] The committee published its report, Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming, in June 2013, with a follow-up in October 2014 in response to the Jay report.

Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Committee, 2007–2016

In October 2012 the committee criticised South Yorkshire's chief constable, David Crompton, and one of its senior officers, Philip Etheridge.[152] The committee heard evidence that three members of a family connected with the abuse of 61 girls had not been charged, and no action was taken when a 22-year-old man was found in a car with a 12-year-old girl, with indecent images of her on his phone. Crompton said that "ethnic origin" was not a factor in deciding whether to charge suspects. The committee said that they were very concerned, as was the public.[152]

During a hearing in September 2014 to discuss Rotherham, the committee chair, Keith Vaz, told Crompton that the committee was shocked by the evidence, and that it held South Yorkshire Police responsible. Asked about an incident in which a 13-year-old found in a flat with a group of men was arrested for being drunk and disorderly, Crompton said it would be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.[158]

In January 2013 the committee summoned the head of Rotherham Council, Martin Kimber, to explain the lack of arrests, despite South Yorkshire Police saying it was conducting investigations and the council having identified 58 young girls at risk.[159] Vaz questioned why, after five Asian men were jailed in 2010, more was not done: "In Lancashire there were 100 prosecutions the year before last, in South Yorkshire there were no prosecutions." The council apologised for the "systemic failure" that had "let down" the victims.[159]

October 2014 report edit

The committee's follow-up report on 18 October 2014 detailed the disappearance of Adele Weir's files containing data on the abuse from the Risky Business office in 2002.[107][109] The allegations were made in private hearings. Keith Vaz said: "The proliferation of revelations about files which can no longer be located gives rise to public suspicion of a deliberate cover-up. The only way to address these concerns is with a full, transparent and urgent investigation." The report called for new legislation to allow the removal of elected Police and Crime Commissioners following a vote of no confidence.[109]

Jay inquiry edit

Report edit

Rotherham Town Hall

In October 2013 Rotherham Council commissioned Professor Alexis Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish government, to conduct an independent inquiry into its handling of child-sexual-exploitation reports since 1997.[4][160] Published on 26 August 2014, the Jay report revealed that an estimated 1,400 children, by a "conservative estimate", had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.[j] According to the report, children as young as 11 were "raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated".[68][162]

Taxi drivers were a "common thread", picking up children for sex from schools and care homes.{{efn|Jay report (2014): "One of the common threads running through child sexual exploitation across England has been the prominent role of taxi drivers in being directly linked to children who were abused. This was the case in Rotherham from a very early stage, when residential care home heads met in the nineties to share intelligence about taxis and other cars which picked up girls from outside their units. In the early 2000s some secondary school heads were reporting girls being picked up at lunchtime at the school gates and being taken away to provide oral sex to men in the lunch break."[163]

[164] The inquiry team found examples where "a child was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, children who were threatened with guns, children who witnessed brutally violent rapes and were threatened that they would be the next victim if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators, one after the other."[165][166] According to the report:

One child who was being prepared to give evidence received a text saying the perpetrator had her younger sister and the choice of what happened next was up to her. She withdrew her statements. At least two other families were terrorised by groups of perpetrators, sitting in cars outside the family home, smashing windows, making abusive and threatening phone calls. On some occasions child victims went back to perpetrators in the belief that this was the only way their parents and other children in the family would be safe. In the most extreme cases, no one in the family believed that the authorities could protect them.[165]

Sarah Champion, Labour MP for Rotherham from 2012

The report noted that babies were born as a result of the abuse. There were also miscarriages and terminations. Several girls were able to look after their babies with help from social services, but in other cases babies were permanently removed, causing further trauma to the mother and mother's family.[21] Sarah Champion, who in 2012 succeeded Denis MacShane as Labour MP for Rotherham, said this "spoke volumes about the way these children weren't seen as victims at all".[24]

The police had shown a lack of respect for the victims in the early 2000s, according to the report, deeming them "undesirables" unworthy of police protection.[167] The concerns of Jayne Senior, the former youth worker, were met with "indifference and scorn".[168][169] Because most of the perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage, several council staff described themselves as being nervous about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others, the report noted, "remembered clear direction from their managers" not to make such identification.[170] The report noted the experience of Adele Weir, the Home Office researcher, who attempted to raise concerns about the abuse with senior police officers in 2002; she was told not to do so again, and was subsequently sidelined.[162]

Staff described Rotherham Council as macho, sexist and bullying, according to the report. There were sexist comments to female employees, particularly during the period 1997–2009. One woman reported being told to wear shorter skirts to "get on better"; another was asked if she wore a mask while having sex. The Jay report noted that "[t]he existence of such a culture ... is likely to have impeded the Council from providing an effective, corporate response to such a highly sensitive social problem as child sexual exploitation."[171] Several people who spoke to the Jay inquiry were concerned that Rotherham Council officials were connected to the perpetrators through business interests such as the taxi firm; the police assured the inquiry that there was no evidence of this.[172]

Resignations edit

The Jay report prompted the resignations of Roger Stone, Labour leader of Rotherham Council, and Martin Kimber, its chief executive.[173] Despite being strongly criticized during appearances before the House Affairs Committee, Joyce Thacker, the council's director of children's services, and Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for South Yorkshire Police from 2012—and Labour councillor in charge of child safety at the council from 2005 to 2010—would not step down. They did eventually, in September, under pressure; Wright was asked to step down by Theresa May, then Home Secretary; members of his own party; and Rotherham's Labour MP Sarah Champion.[174] He also resigned from the Labour Party, on 27 August 2014, after an ultimatum by the party to do so or face suspension.[175]

Suspensions from the Labour party edit

Roger Stone was suspended from the Labour Party, as were councillors Gwendoline Russell and Shaukat Ali, and former deputy council leader Jahangir Akhtar, who had lost his council seat in 2014.[176] Malcolm Newsam was appointed as Children's Social Care Commissioner in October 2014, and subsequently Ian Thomas was appointed as interim director of children's services.[177][178]

Reception edit

Denis MacShane

There was worldwide astonishment at the Jay report's findings, and extensive news coverage. Ten of the UK's most popular newspapers featured the report on their front pages, including the Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Independent.[179]

David Crompton, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police from 2012 to 2016, invited the National Crime Agency to conduct an independent inquiry.[28] Keith Vaz, then chair of the Home Affairs Committee, told Meredydd Hughes, Chief Constable from 2004 to 2011, that Hughes had failed abuse victims.[180]

Theresa May, then Home Secretary, accused the authorities of a "dereliction of duty". She blamed several factors, including Rotherham Council's "institutionalised political correctness", inadequate scrutiny and culture of covering things up, combined with a fear of being seen as racist and a "disdainful attitude" toward the children.[k] Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham from 1994 until his resignation in 2012 for claiming false expenses, blamed a culture of "not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat".[182] Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, where similar cases were prosecuted, argued that ethnicity, class and the night-time economy were all factors, adding that "a very small minority" in the Asian community have an unhealthy view of women, and that an "unhealthy brand of politics 'imported' from Pakistan", which involved "looking after your own", was partly to blame.[183][184]

Nazir Afzal

British Muslims and members of the British-Pakistani community condemned both the abuse and that it had been covered up.[185] Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for North West England from 2011–2015, himself a Muslim, made the decision in 2011 to prosecute the Rochdale child sex abuse ring after the CPS had turned the case down.[186] Responding to the Jay report, he argued that the abuse had no basis in Islam: "Islam says that alcohol, drugs, rape and abuse are all forbidden, yet these men were surrounded by all of these things."[187]

Afzal argued that the cases were about male power: "It is not the abusers' race that defines them. It is their attitude to women that defines them." The handling of the cases was a matter of incompetence rather than political correctness. He agreed with Danczuk that the nature of the night-time economy skewed the picture—more Pakistani-heritage men work at night and might therefore be more involved in that kind of activity.[187] The incoming director of children's services in Rotherham, Ian Thomas, disagreed, arguing that the "night-time economy is full of white blokes. Ninety-two per cent of the people in Rotherham are white."[178] Alexis Jay also disagreed; she told The Guardian in 2015 that working in the night-time economy "presents an opportunity but it doesn't present a motive".[9]

The UK Hindu Council and the Sikh Federation asked that the perpetrators be described as Pakistani Muslims, rather than Asian.[188] Britain First and the English Defence League staged protests in Rotherham, as did Unite Against Fascism.[189]

Casey inquiry edit

Following the Jay report, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, commissioned an independent inspection of Rotherham Council.[30] Led by Louise Casey, director-general of the government's Troubled Families programme, the inspection examined the council's governance, services for children and young people, and taxi and private-hire licensing.[190]

Published in February 2015, the Casey report concluded that Rotherham Council was "not fit for purpose".[191] Casey identified a culture of "bullying, sexism ... and misplaced 'political correctness'", along with a history of covering up information and silencing whistleblowers. The child-sexual-exploitation team was poorly directed, suffered from excessive case loads, and did not share information.[192] The council had a history of failing to deal with issues around race: "Staff perceived that there was only a small step between mentioning the ethnicity of perpetrators and being labelled a racist."[193] The Pakistani-heritage councillors were left to deal with all issues pertaining to that community, which left them able to exert disproportionate influence, while white councillors ignored their responsibilities. Councillor Jahangir Akhtar, in particular, was named as too influential, including regarding police matters.[194]

In February 2015 the government replaced its elected officers with a team of five commissioners, including one tasked specifically with looking at children's services.[32] Files relating to one current and one former councillor identifying "a number of potentially criminal matters" were passed to the National Crime Agency. The leader of the council, Paul Lakin, resigned, and members of the council cabinet also stood down.[32]

Operation Clover, trials (2015–2017) edit

December 2015 edit

South Yorkshire police set up Operation Clover in August 2013 to investigate historic cases of child sexual abuse in the town.[195]

As a result, six men and two women went on trial before Judge Sarah Wright on 10 December 2015 at Sheffield Crown Court, with Michelle Colborne QC prosecuting. Four were members of the Hussain family—three brothers and their uncle, Qurban Ali—named in Adele Weir's 2001 report.[196][197] The Hussain family were said to have "owned" Rotherham.[196] Ali owned a local minicab company, Speedline Taxis; one of the accused women had worked for Speedline as a radio operator.[198][199] A fourth Hussain brother, Sageer Hussain, was convicted in November 2016.[200] It was alleged in late 2018 that Arshid Hussain was contacted by Rotherham council whilst in prison in relation to care proceedings for his child which was conceived during a rape. The child's mother and victim of Hussain Sammy Woodhouse accused the council of putting her child at risk and an online petition calling for a change in the law reached more than 200,000 signatures.[201]

On 24 February 2016, Ali was convicted of conspiracy to rape and sentenced to 10 years.[202] Arshid "Mad Ash" Hussain, apparently the ringleader, was jailed for 35 years.[202] He appeared in court by video link and seemed to be asleep in bed when the verdict was announced. His lawyer said he had been left paraplegic by a shooting accident; the prosecution alleged that his claim to be too ill to attend was simply a ploy.[196] Arshid's brother Bannaras "Bono" Hussain was jailed for 19 years, and Basharat "Bash" Hussain for 25 years.[202] Two other men were acquitted, one of seven charges, including four rapes, and the second of one charge of indecent assault.[202]

The court heard that the police had once caught Basharat Hussain in the act, but failed to do anything. He was with a victim in a car park next to Rotherham police station, when a police car approached and asked what he was doing. He replied: "She's just sucking my cock, mate", and the police car left.[203]

Karen MacGregor and Shelley Davies were convicted of false imprisonment and conspiracy to procure prostitutes.[202] MacGregor had worked for Qurban Ali as a radio operator at Speedline Taxis.[198] She was sentenced to 13 years and Davies was given an 18-month suspended sentence.[202] MacGregor and Davies would befriend girls and take them back to MacGregor's home. Acting as surrogate parents, the women bought them food and clothes, and listened to their problems. The girls were then given alcohol and told to earn their keep by having sex with male visitors. MacGregor had even applied for charitable status for a local group she had set up, Kin Kids, to help the carers of troubled teenagers. She had been supported in this by John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne (who did not know that children were being procured for sex),[204] and had attended a meeting at Westminster to speak about it.[205][206]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
6 Qurban Ali 53 Conspiracy to rape 10 years[202]
7 Arshid Hussain 40 Rape, indecent assault (23 charges) 35 years
8 Basharat Hussain 39 Rape (15 charges) 25 years
9 Bannaras Hussain 36 Rape, indecent assault, actual bodily harm (10 charges) 19 years
10 Karen MacGregor 58 False imprisonment, conspiracy to procure prostitutes 13 years
11 Shelley Davies 40 False imprisonment, conspiracy to procure prostitutes 18 months suspended

September 2016 edit

Eight men went on trial in September 2016 and were convicted on 17 October that year.[207] A fourth Hussain brother, Sageer Hussain, was jailed for 19 years for four counts of raping a 13-year-old girl and one indecent assault.[200] The girl's family, then owners of a local post office and shop, had reported the rapes at the time to police, their MP, and David Blunkett, the home secretary, to no avail.[208]

First groomed when she was 12, the girl told the court she had been raped multiple times from the age of 13, on the first occasion in November 2002 by nine men who took photographs. On another occasion she was locked in a room while men lined up outside. She was threatened with a gun, and told they would gang-rape her mother, kill her brother and burn her home down. Every time it happened, she hid the clothes she had been wearing. In April 2003, when she was 13, she told her mother, who alerted the police;[209] the court was shown video of an interview police conducted with her that month.[210] The police collected the bags of clothes, then called two days later to say they had lost them. The family was sent £140 compensation for the clothes and advised to drop the case. Unable to find anyone to help them, they sold their business in 2005 and moved in fear to Spain for 18 months.[211][209][212]

Sageer Hussain gave an interview to Channel 4 News in 2014, after his brother, Arshid Hussain, was named in the media as a ringleader. Sageer attributed the abuse to girls wearing miniskirts: "The biggest part of the problem you have these days is these young girls, that are dressed up, i.e. miniskirts, stuff like that, they're going into the clubs, and they're ending up going with blokes, and stuff like that, and they're waking up next morning, and they scream rape. Or groomed." Asked about the allegation that his brother had assaulted 12-year-olds, he compared having sex with 12-year-olds to "like going and eating that dog crap; they wouldn't do it", and blamed social services for having let the girls out in the first place.[209]

Sageer's brother Basharat Hussain, already sentenced to 25 years in February 2016, was convicted of indecent assault and given an additional seven-year sentence, to run concurrently. Two cousins of the Hussains, Asif Ali and Mohammed Whied, were convicted of rape and aiding and abetting rape, respectively. Four other men were jailed for rape or indecent assault.[209][213]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
12 Sageer Hussain 30 4 rapes, indecent assault 19 years[213]
13 Basharat Hussain 40 Indecent assault 7 years
14 Ishtiaq Khaliq 33 Rape, three indecent assaults 17 years
15 Masoued Malik 32 Rape, false imprisonment, conspiracy to commit indecent assault 15 years
16 Waleed Ali 34 Rape, indecent assault 13 years
17 Asif Ali 30 Rape 12 years
18 Naeem Rafiq 33 Conspiracy to commit indecent assault, false imprisonment 8 years
19 Mohammed Whied 32 Aiding and abetting rape 5 years

January 2017 edit

Six men, including three brothers, went on trial in January 2017 before Judge Sarah Wright, with Sophie Drake prosecuting. All were convicted of 21 offences in relation to assaults between 1999 and 2001 on two girls, aged 11 and 13 when the abuse began. The girls were assaulted in a fireworks shop and in a flat above a row of shops, both owned by the brothers' father. One girl, aged 12 at the time, was locked in the "extremely dirty" flat overnight with no electricity or running water. A rape by Basharat Hussain was reported to the police in 2001; he was questioned but released without charge.[214] One of the girls became pregnant at age 12, but she had been raped by five men and did not know who the father was; DNA tests established that it was one of the defendants.[23] After sentencing, two of the men shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they were led out of the court.[215]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
20 Basharat Dad 32 Rape, indecent assault, and false imprisonment 20 years[215]
21 Nasser Dad 36 Rape, false imprisonment, inciting gross indecency with a child 14 years, 6 months
22 Tayab Dad 34 Rape 10 years
23 Mohammed Sadiq 41 Sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 13 years
24 Matloob Hussain 42 Sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 13 years
25 Amjad Ali 36 Sexual intercourse with a girl under 13 11 years

May 2017 edit

A 21st person as part of the Operation Clover and 26th person in total including Operation Central was found guilty of sexual offences in May 2017.[216]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
26 Zalgai Ahmadi 45 Conspiracy to commit sexual assault and false imprisonment 9 years, 6 months

National Crime Agency Inquiry estimated 2,000 victims and 420 suspects edit

The National Crime Agency (NCA) set up Operation Stovewood in December 2014 to conduct a criminal inquiry and to review South Yorkshire Police investigations. The NCA inquiry was led by the NCA director, Trevor Pearce, before being led by Deputy Director Roy McComb.[28][217] As of 2016 the inquiry was expected to last eight years and cost over £30 million.[29] By June 2015 Operation Stovewood had identified 300 suspects.[218]

Suspects rises to above 420 edit

It was reported in October 2018 a police investigation sparked by the child abuse scandal in Rotherham is now investigating more than 400 suspects, it emerged today. More than 420 suspects are being investigated in £100m Rotherham grooming inquiry after conviction of gang who forced girl to have sex with 'at least 100 Asian men' by the time she was 16.[219]

November 2017 edit

Three men were arrested in July 2016 and charged in December 2016 with the indecent assault of a girl under the age of 14 between June 1994 and June 1995.[217] They were convicted following a trial in November 2017 at Sheffield Crown Court. The men befriended the 13-year-old in Rotherham before plying her with alcohol and raping her. Judge David Dixon told the three they had 'groomed, coerced and intimidated' their victim and treated her 'like a thing'. The girl went on to suffer from eating disorders, anxiety and depression as a result of her ordeal, the court heard.[220]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
27 Sajid Ali 38 Seven counts of indecent assault 7 years, 6 months [221]
28 Zaheer Iqbal 40 Five counts of indecent assault 7 years, 6 months
29 Riaz Makhmood 39 Three counts of indecent assault 6 years, 9 months

February 2018 edit

A fourth man was convicted as part of Operation Stovewood in February 2018.[222]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
30 Asghar Bostan 47 One count of rape 9 years

May 2018 edit

A fifth man was convicted in early May 2018 and a sixth on 31 May.[223][224] Tony Chapman admitted 12 charges of indecently assaulting a girl under the age of 16 between February 1998 and January 1999 when he appeared at court on 17 April. He was also found guilty of five offences against two separate girls including rape, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and threatening to kill following a nine-day trial at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday. The offences took place between October 2013 and May 2015, when the girls were under the age of 16.

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
31 Tony Chapman 42 Seventeen child sexual abuse offences 25 years

Khurram Javed was found guilty of one count of sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl when he was 31 years old. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment.[224]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
32 Khurram Javed 35 One count of sexual assault 2 years

July 2018 edit

Five men were charged with a total of 21 offences, including rape and indecent assault against two girls under the age of sixteen between 2001 and 2004.[225] The court heard how the girls were groomed in and around the Meadowhall shopping centre when they were twelve or thirteen and one of the accused had sex with a girl within the shopping complex.[226] Three of the men were found not guilty on all counts, whilst a fourth man failed to appear at court and is believed to have left the country. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.[227][228]

October 2018 edit

A man was sentenced to nine years in prison for sexual activity with a child in October. Darren Hyett took the 15-year-old girl out in his taxi and showered her with gifts when he was 41.[229]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
33 Darren Hyett 55 One count of sexual activity with a child 9 years

In late October 2018, seven men, the largest number prosecuted under the National Crime Agency's Operation Stovewood investigation so far, were also convicted of sexual offences against five girls committed between 1998 and 2005.[230] They were first prosecuted in September as a group of 8 men charged with various child sexual offences, 2 of which were said to have raped a young girl in Sherwood Forest between August 2002 and 2003, giving her drugs and alcohol and threatening to abandon her if she did not comply with their demands. The girl became pregnant and decided to have an abortion.[231] One said she had slept with 100 Asian men by the time she was 16.[232][233]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
34 Mohammed Imran Ali Akhtar 37 One count of rape, one count of aiding and abetting rape, three counts of indecent assault, one count of procuring a girl under 21 to have unlawful sexual intercourse with another and count of sexual assault 23 years
35 Nabeel Kurshid 39 Two counts of rape and one count of sexual assault 19 years
36 Iqlak Yousaf 34 Two counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault 20 years
35 Tanweer Ali 37 Two counts of rape, two counts of indecent assault and one count of false imprisonment 14 years
36 Salah Ahmed El-Hakam 39 One count of rape 15 years
38 Asif Ali 33 Two counts of indecent assaults 10 years
39 Unnamed Man Two counts of rape

August 2019 edit

In August 2019, seven men became the latest to be convicted under Operation Stovewood relating to the sexual exploitation of seven teenage girls more than a decade previously, at least four were already in prison at the time of sentencing.[234][235] Aftab Hussain was sentenced to 24 years for indecent assault after being jailed for 3 years and 4 months in a separate investigation back in April 2016 after he admitted two counts of sexual activity with a child and attempted witness intimidation.[236] Hussain, who worked as a takeaway delivery driver, contacted the then 15-year-old girl via social media in 2015 and took her out in his car whilst making deliveries and then made threats to hurt her if she told anyone. Masaued Malik was sentenced to 5 years after being previously sentenced to 15 years in September 2016 under Operation Clover for similar offences. Mohammed Ashen pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault. Ashen was already in prison serving a 17-year sentence (reduced from 19 years) for murder after an incident in a Rotherham nightclub in 2005 where he stabbed Kimberley Fuller nine times after she confronted him for touching her inappropriately. Prior to this, he was jailed for threatening a former partner with a knife. Waseem Khaliq was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was then sentenced for a further 45 months after admitting three counts of witness intimidation after posting allegations against his victims on fake Facebook and Twitter accounts. He also made a phone call from prison to the National Crime Agency control centre threatening two of the investigating officers saying that he knew where one of them lived and that he hoped they died of cancer or AIDS.[237][238][239][240]

Number Name Age Conviction Sentence
40 Aftab Hussain 40 Two counts of indecent assault 24 years
41 Abid Saddiq 38 Two counts of rape, four counts of indecent assault and two counts of child abduction 20 years
42 Masaued Malik 35 Three counts of indecent assault 5 years
43 Sharaz Hussain 35 Four counts of indecent assault 4 years
44 Mohammed Ashen 35 Three counts of indecent assault 18 years
45 Waseem Khaliq 35 Two counts of child abduction, three counts of witness intimidation and indecent assault 13 years 9 months
46 Unnamed Man Two counts of indecent assault yet to be sentenced

October 2022 edit

A 63-year-old man was charged with two sexual offences against a 13-year-old girl as part of Operation Stovewood.[241]

January 2023 edit

Three men were charged with various sexual offences against two victims who were residents of a children's home between 2011 and 2012.[242] Two more men were then later charged with sexual offences against 10 victims later in the same month.[243]

March 2023 edit

In March 2023, three brothers were charge with a total of 29 child sex offences under Operation Stovewood.[244]

April 2023 edit

In April 2023, nine Pakistani males were charged with offences between 2003 and 2008.[245]

July 2023 edit

In July 2023, two men and a woman were charged with offences between 2003 and 2009.[246][247]

Nazir Ahmed, Baron Ahmed cases edit

Ahmed was born in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, Pakistan on 24 April 1957 to Haji Sain Mohammed and Rashim Bibi. His parents migrated the family to the United Kingdom when he was 11. On 1 March 2019, Ahmed was charged with two offences of attempted rape and one offence of indecent assault between 1971 and 1974. The alleged victims were at the time a boy and a girl, both under the age of 13. The incidents reportedly took place between 1971 and 1974 while Ahmed was a teenager aged between 14 and 17 living in Rotherham.[248][249] Ahmed stood trial in November 2021 when he continued to deny the allegations against him.[250] On 5 January 2022 he was found guilty of attempted rape of a girl and of a serious sexual assault upon a boy.[251] On 4 February 2022, Mr Justice Lavender sentenced Ahmed to five years and six months in prison.[252]

Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry edit

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began an investigation into allegations of police wrongdoing following the Jay report. It was the second-largest inquiry the IPCC has undertaken after the inquiry into the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster in Sheffield; that game was policed by South Yorkshire Police. As of March 2017 nine inquiries were complete, with no case to answer regarding officer conduct, but recommendations were made to the force about the recording of information. Another 53 investigations were underway.[253]

According to Andrew Norfolk in The Times, one Rotherham police officer had been in regular contact with one of the perpetrators. In one incident in March 2000, he and a local taxi driver—who later became a Rotherham councillor—are alleged to have arranged for Arshid Hussain, arguably the gang's ringleader, to hand a girl over to police at a petrol station "in exchange for immunity".[254][255] Another complaint concerned the same officer, who reportedly asked two of the victims out on a date. One victim reported this to police in August 2013, but no action was taken. The IPCC was also investigating the officer who failed to act on the report.[256][257] The first officer died in January 2015 after being hit by a car in Sheffield, in an unrelated accident.[256]

A five-year investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) found that the Rotherham police ignored the sexual abuse of children for decades for fear of increasing racial tensions. The IOPC upheld a complaint from the father of one of the victims that police took "insufficient action". The complainant claims he was told by a police officer the town "would erupt" if it became known that Asian men were regularly sexually abusing underage girls.[258][259][260]

2020 Home Office Report edit

The Rotherham case was one of several cases which prompted investigations looking into the claim that the majority of perpetrators from grooming gangs were British Pakistani; the first was by Quilliam in December 2017, which released a report entitled Group Based Child Sexual Exploitation – Dissecting Grooming Gangs, which claimed 84% of offenders were of South Asian heritage.[261] However this report was "fiercely" criticised for its unscientific nature and poor methodology by child sexual exploitation experts Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail, in their paper Failing Victims, Fuelling Hate: Challenging the Harms of the 'Muslim grooming gangs' Narrative which was published in January 2020.[262][263]

A further investigation was carried out by the British government in December 2020, when the Home Office published their findings, showing that the majority of child sexual exploitation gangs were, in fact, composed of white men and not British Pakistani men.[264][265]

"Beyond specific high-profile cases, the academic literature highlights significant limitations to what can be said about links between ethnicity and this form of offending. Research has found that group-based CSE offenders are most commonly White. Some studies suggest an over-representation of Black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based CSE offending. This is due to issues such as data quality problems, the way the samples were selected in studies, and the potential for bias and inaccuracies in the way that ethnicity data is collected"; the report also added "Based on the existing evidence, and our understanding of the flaws in the existing data, it seems most likely that the ethnicity of group-based CSE offenders is in line with CSA [child sexual abuse] more generally and with the general population, with the majority of offenders being White".[264][265]

Writing in The Guardian, Cockbain and Tufail wrote of the report that "The two-year study by the Home Office makes very clear that there are no grounds for asserting that Muslim or Pakistani-heritage men are disproportionately engaged in such crimes, and, citing our research, it confirmed the unreliability of the Quilliam claim".[266]

Rotherham grooming survivor awarded £425k after suing rapist edit

A rapist convicted as part of the Rotherham grooming scandal has been ordered to pay £425,000 in damages to his victim by the High Court. The grooming survivor, who is known as Liz, started civil proceedings against Asghar Bostan in 2020. The woman, who has been granted life-long anonymity, started civil proceedings in 2020 after she felt the justice system had failed to sufficiently punish her attacker. Her solicitor Robin Tilbrook described it as an "ice-breaker" of a case, which would allow "others to follow".[267]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Andrew Norfolk began investigating in 2010. The first of his articles appeared over four pages in The Times in January 2011, accompanied by an editorial.[13]

    Andrew Norfolk (The Times, 24 September 2012): "Confidential police reports and intelligence files ... show that for more than a decade organised groups of men were able to groom, pimp and traffic girls across the country with virtual impunity. Offenders were identified to police but not prosecuted."[14]

  2. ^ Other towns within the borough are Dinnington, Laughton, Maltby, Rawmarsh, Swinton, and Wath-upon-Dearne.
  3. ^ The Home Affairs Committee defined localised grooming as "a model of child sexual exploitation in which a group of abusers target vulnerable children, including, but not confined to, those who are looked after by a local authority. The group typically makes initial contact with the victims in a public place such as a park, cinema, on the street or at a friend's house. The children are offered gifts and treats—takeaway food, sweets, cigarettes, alcohol or drugs—in exchange for sex, sometimes with dozens of men on the same occasion. There will often be occasions where they are missing from home although such times may be less than 24 hours. 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, reinforcing the misapprehension that the children are involved in consensual relationships with partners of a similar age. In a number of cases, victims are internally trafficked within the UK, being taken to other towns for the express purpose of being 'given' or 'sold' for sexual exploitation."[44]
  4. ^ Janice Turner (The Times, 19 March 2016): "Around 2001, Risky Business noted a change. Fewer girls came from Sheffield, the nearest big city with a sizeable red light district, more from Rotherham itself. They were younger too: some only ten. Not all were in care or chaotic families: one was a doctor's daughter. Yet all were troubled, bullied and friendless. And their stories had a similar arc: they'd be chatted up by a boy their own age, bought a McDonald's, drinks or soft drugs. Then he'd introduce them to an older Pakistani-origin man, who had a car, nice clothes, money and charm. ...
    "The older men made them feel special with presents and questions about their lives. The girls—trusting, guileless children—would reveal where their parents worked, all about their friends and pets, where their granny lived. ... Once the girl was ensnared, this attentive boyfriend would turn nasty. He'd say he needed money, the girl must repay drinks and presents with favours. She must sleep with his friend, or brother, come to a certain house ... The beatings would start, then the threats. "Tell anyone and we'll hurt your mum. You told us where she lives ..."[2]
  5. ^ Jay report (2014): "In this part of the report, we have not specified the ethnicity of the victims or the perpetrators. In a large number of the historic cases in particular, most of the victims in the cases we sampled were white British children, and the majority of the perpetrators were from minority ethnic communities."[68]
  6. ^ Jay report (2014): "As has been stated many times before, there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation, and across the UK the greatest numbers of perpetrators of CSE are white men"
    "The UK Muslim Women's Network produced a report on CSE in September 2013 which drew on 35 case studies of women from across the UK who were victims, the majority of whom were Muslim. I"[72]
  7. ^ Jay report (2014): ""With hindsight, it is clear that women and girls in the Pakistani community in Rotherham should have been encouraged and empowered by the authorities to speak out about perpetrators and their own experiences as victims of sexual exploitation, so often hidden from sight. The Safeguarding Board has recently received a presentation from a local Pakistani women's group about abuse within their community. The Board should address as a priority the under-reporting of exploitation and abuse in minority ethnic communities."[77]
  8. ^ Adele Weir (in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, 2014): "I was told that over the weekend somebody had gained access to the Risky Business office, opened the filing cabinets and removed all of the data relating to the Home Office work. To be clear to the committee that involved accessing the grounds of the International Centre; gaining access to the Centre itself; disarming the alarm; moving through a key coded and locked security door; unlocking the door to the part of the building where the project office was located; unlocking the door to the project office itself; unlocking a desk and finding the keys to the filing cabinets; identifying which filing cabinet had my Home Office pilot data in it; and removing my data but nothing else. There were no signs of a forced entry."[106][107][108][109][110][111][112][113]
  9. ^ Jayne Senior (2016) wrote that one police officer told her: "We've been told we have to take this down the honour-killing route. We can't mention anything to do with CSE [child sexual exploitation] in this investigation."[145]
  10. ^ Jay report (2014): "To help reach an overall estimate of the problem, we used reports to the Local Safeguarding Children Board (formerly the ACPC) and Council committees. We examined minutes of the Sexual Exploitation Forum and minutes of independently chaired Strategy meetings where individual children were discussed. These included inter-agency discussions about hundreds of children who had suffered, or were at serious risk of sexual exploitation. We also had access to lists, and sometimes summary descriptions, of many hundreds of children who were supported by Risky Business, individually or in group sessions.
    "Taking all these sources together, the Inquiry concluded that an at least 1400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013. This is likely to be a conservative estimate of the true scale of the problem. We are unable to assess the numbers of other children who may have been at risk of exploitation, or those who were exploited but not known to any agency. This includes some who were forced to witness other children being assaulted and abused."[161]
  11. ^ Theresa May (2 September 2014): "Professor Alexis Jay's report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 is a terrible account of the appalling failures by Rotherham council, the police and other agencies to protect vulnerable children. What happened was a complete dereliction of duty. ... My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government shares my concerns over the failings by Rotherham council that have been identified. This includes the inadequate scrutiny by councillors, institutionalised political correctness, the covering up of information and the failure to take action against gross misconduct. ... I am clear that cultural concerns—both the fear of being seen as racist and the disdainful attitude to some of our most vulnerable children—must never stand in the way of child protection."[181]

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Works cited edit

The article cites the following books and reports. All other sources are listed in the References section only.

Further reading edit

Home Affairs Committee edit

Miscellaneous edit