Child sex abuse victim said South Yorkshire Police failings report is 'bitter-sweet'

South Yorkshire Police has apologised after an investigation into child sexual abuse in Rotherham found that police failures left a sex offender free to abuse vulnerable youngsters.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 4:45 pm

A damning report by police watchdog Independent Office for Police Conduct, found that South Yorkshire Police knew about relationships with young girls in foster care that Arshid Hussain had as early as 2000.

The report states that South Yorkshire Police was aware of Hussain’s “relationship” with Sammy Woodhouse in 2000.

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Sammy Woodhouse. Picture James Hardisty.

It added: “We have found no evidence to suggest that any action was taken against [Hussain] , despite officers knowing you had been with [Hussain], while you were missing from home”.

Sammy Woodhouse, who was groomed by Hussain from the age of 14, made the complaint to the watchdog five years ago, and said it being upheld was “bitter-sweet”.

“I first complained in 2013, and I would rather the time was taken for the report to be done properly,” she said.

“In total, it has been 19 years since I made the first disclosure.

“It’s good that this investigation has finally told the truth, and I’ve kept proving I told the truth. It’s the only good thing to come out of this.

“It shows that I could have been helped before I asked. Other people wouldn’t have had to go through it.

“The hell I’ve been put through by professionals is horrendous. It’s a bitter-sweet moment but I shouldn’t have been put through all this.

“[Apologies] are up to the people that failed me and I still want them to be held to account.”

Sammy said there is still a long way to go until her campaigning is over.

The 35-year-old is still fighting to change the law, so that children who have been groomed or coerced into committing crimes will not be charged – known as “Sammy’s Law”.

“There’s still not enough support, children are still being criminalised and exploited, and survivors are having their children removed and given to the perpetrators,” she added.

“It’s absolutely horrendous and I’m not just talking about Rotherham I’m talking about as a country. Our country is a disgrace. It’s a peadophile’s paradise. We have a system that supports the criminals.”

Assistant Chief Constable Lauren Poultney of South Yorkshire Police said: “We’re deeply sorry that Sammy was not identified as a victim at the time of the abuse against her or consistently given the support she should have been provided.

“Sammy’s bravery and courage in speaking out about her experiences has shaped the policing response to child sexual exploitation. We now have a deeper knowledge and understanding of the issues and the determination to address these without fear or favour as is demonstrated by our convictions against those who abused her.

“That said, Sammy should not have had to suffer this abuse at all and when it became apparent, she should have had the full force of South Yorkshire Police to support and protect her and to bring her the justice she deserved.”

An IOPC spokesman said: “Our priority throughout the investigation has, and always will be, the welfare of the many survivors of child sexual abuse we have been engaging with. As their individual cases conclude we provide them with a personal update on our findings.

“At the conclusion of all of our investigations we intend to publish an over-arching report covering all of the findings, outcomes and learning from our work on Operation Linden.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.