OPINION: Learn the lessons of a shocking scandal to rebuild Rotherham

Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Rotherham, South Yorkshire
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Fifteen women, hands linked in solidarity, looked down upon the men who had subjected them to some of the most harrowing abuse possible, as justice was finally served on the three brothers who ‘ruled Rotherham’.

Through the course of the trial, the jury heard these women describe how they were targeted in their young teens and passed around men who raped and beat them.

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These victims, who showed remarkable bravery in coming forward and reliving some of the darkest chapters in their lives, finally saw justice being done at Sheffield Crown Court as Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain were found guilty.

We cannot ever forget the damage that must have been dealt to these women when they were just children, nor the courage it took to get justice at long last.

What will also live on in the memory is how long these victims were failed for. They were failed by the police who did not pursue prosecutions for fear of being seen as racist. They were failed by Rotherham councillors and officers, who sat by while girls were being picked up on street corners.

Ever since the Jay Report first blew the lid off one of the biggest scandals of the 21st century, the full shocking extent of the failings of those who should have been helping these girls has been exposed.

Now justice has been served on these three, as well as Karen MacGregor and Shelley Davies, who were found guilty of false imprisonment and conspiracy to procure prostitutes.

We can only hope that this represents a watershed moment for Rotherham.

The town has an important history in South Yorkshire, one which has been marred by a modern legacy of abuse.

It’s vital that everyone has learned a lesson. That the police, the council, social services – everyone – has changed the way they operate like they say they have, and improved the way abuse is reported and dealt with.

We’ll continue to shine a light on those who seek to commit abuse and continue to pressure those in power to do right by victims.

But it’s also important we look forward and focus on rebuilding a stronger Rotherham, a town ready to focus on the positives, attract new investment and a renewed community.

We must never forget these lessons, and use them to ensure there is no repeat of what happened.

But if we allow these abusers’ legacy to impact residents going forward, there will remain a serious injustice to the hard working people who make up the majority today; people who want to get on with their lives and create a better place to live.