Council chiefs vow to bring child grooming offenders to ‘justice’

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COUNCIL chiefs in Rotherham today vowed to bring sexual predators to justice for targeting young children in the town.

The vow came after the disclosure of confidential police and council documents and intelligence files on the sexual exploitation of children in South Yorkshire.

They revealed that for more than a decade South Yorkshire authorities have been aware of a growing culture of men targeting vulnerable young English girls to groom for sex, but give a series of shocking examples of where offenders have never been prosecuted.

They also reveal instances where young children have been pimped and trafficked to other parts of the country for the sexual gratification of men.

One of the reports made public today came from the South Yorkshire Police intelligence bureau in 2010, which admitted that at that time there was ‘evidence of a substantial and organised offender network that groom and exploit victims on a worrying scale’.

It referred to ‘a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females’ in the county.

One of the intelligence bureau reports made public today, laid bare the problem South Yorkshire Police had with investigating the issue.

It revealed that by 2010 up to 300 children were being sexually exploited in the county but there were only three officers dedicated to tackling the issue.

One was part time and the other two had other areas of work which took up at least half their time, the report said.

It added: “Force provision for the policing of child exploitation is not equivalent to the scale and seriousness of the problem.”

Joyce Thacker, Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services for Rotherham Council, said: “Rotherham Council, working with local partner agencies and the community, is fully committed to tackling sexual exploitation - a commitment which has led to the conviction of men involved in this despicable crime as well as support for victims and potential victims and the education of hundreds of young people about the dangers of sexual exploitation.

“There will always be those people who will attempt to harm our young people and carry out these horrendous crimes but we, along with our partners and communities, will do whatever we can to bring them to justice.

“It has been well documented before that the council along with partner agencies have been aware of the issue and been working with young people for some years now.

“Rotherham was one of the first areas in the region to have a dedicated team, originally set up in 1997, to work with the victims, or potential victims, of sexual exploitation and help support criminal investigations. The service also worked with local schools and community groups to educate young people about the issue.

“Multi-agency work in Rotherham over a number of years has led to successful convictions and support for the victims. These are highly complex cases and situations and some work with individuals did not lead to court cases for a variety of reasons, but those young people have been supported to understand the situation they have found themselves in and assisted by many services.”

Councillor Paul Lakin, Cabinet Member for Services for Children, Young People and Families, added: “There is no question that we will do whatever we can to protect our young people from harm in whatever form that threat takes.

“The council has already acknowledged publicly that there have been lessons learnt from previous work, cases and investigations and that the support offered to a small number of vulnerable young people has not always reached the high standards we always look to provide. From that learning, improvements have been made and new services introduced and those developments will continue.

“Sexual predators do come from different sections of the community and are criminals who need to be brought to justice regardless of their background. We have worked closely with communities and community leaders across Rotherham in recent years to enlist their support in helping to tackle some of these issues and to educate people about sexual exploitation. The response has been very positive and our commitment to continue to tackle this issue is shared by local agencies and our communities.”

Rotherham MP Denis MacShane, said he was disappointed that despite regular meetings with police chiefs in his town the seriousness of the problem with child exploitation had not been revealed before.

He said: “We need clear leadership from Government to eradicate this evil.

“Firstly, we need to shame and name all those who pay for sex with girls. In 2009, Parliament passed a law making it an offence to pay for sex with a young or coerced woman. But few if any prosecutions have followed. The police should be more vigorous in naming and shaming men who pay for sex. Instead of waiting for a terrified girl to be willing to give evidence the police should be arresting any man suspected of offering young girls a ride in his car or taxi or buying them presents.

“Secondly, we need to bring a system of guardianship so that there is individual supervision of the most vulnerable of these girls. Many of the abused young girls came from care homes or from dysfunctional poor families. I have repeatedly called for a system of guardianship – naming legally empowered guardians for any child in care or who has been internally or externally trafficked. Such guardians would have a legal responsibility for these girls and the power to ask the local authority, police, doctors, social workers and teachers what they are doing to protect the child. So far the Government has refused to countenance this reform which many MPs who campaign on trafficking and exploitation of young girls believe would make a real difference.

“We need to tackle the alienation of so many young Asian men from modern society. Sadly the endemic poverty and growing joblessness especially amongst young British men in South Yorkshire with Asian parents who often face prejudice in getting jobs creates a no-work, no-hope, no-future.

“The culture of waiting to be married with someone from overseas instead of normal healthy boy-girl relationships, including responsible caring sexual relationships at the right time and age, leaves some Asian men confused as they see the rampant sexual availability promoted by the media.

“There are thousands of Muslim families in Rotherham and Yorkshire who lead normal decent lives and know no more about these crimes than east Manchester families knew about the killers of the two policewomen last week.

The racist BNP, EDL and other xenophobic and anti-Muslim political outfits seek to exploit community divisions and turn an evil crime into an excuse for racial tension and inter-community violence. It is highly misleading to categorise these sexual abusers as ‘Asians’ or ‘Muslims’..the men are wholly unrepresentative of British Asians and of British Muslims.”