A Sheffield MP has backed a Rotherham child abuse survivor’s call for the law to be changed to deny rapists access to their children.
Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, spoke in the House of Commons calling for the government to back a campaign by Sammy Woodhouse, whose jailed attacker, Arshid Hussain, was given the opportunity to become involved with the future of her son, who was conceived through rape.
Hussain – the ringleader of a notorious child abuse gang who was jailed for 35 years in 2016 – was contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings last year.
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Sammy, who was 15 when she became pregnant, claims the council offered her attacker the right to ‘apply for parental rights’ for her son, including access.
Ms Haigh said: “Last week, I spoke in parliament about the government’s mistreatment of victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) who are being forced to disclose criminal convictions linked to their abuse.
“CSE victims are often forced to commit crimes by their adult abusers and may then be convicted of these crimes. Punitive rules mean that those victims are forced to tell employers and even local parent teacher associations about such criminal convictions.
“It cannot be right that CSE survivors are treated in this way and forced to live with the consequences of their exploitation for the rest of their lives.
“Child sexual exploitation is fundamentally about an imbalance of power that is used to coerce, manipulate and deceive. The government should not be punishing victims of abuse for crimes they committed because of their exploitation.”
Ms Haigh said High Court judges had ruled that forcing CSE victims to disclose past convictions linked to abuse was ‘unjust’.
She added: “I’m calling on the government to bring forward what is known as Sammy’s law, which would give CSE victims the right to have their criminal records automatically reviewed, and crimes associated with their grooming removed.
“At present, anyone has the right to apply to the chief constable of their force area to have their records reviewed, but it is little known.
“Sammy, and victims like her, have been repeatedly failed by the state. They were failed by our legal system, by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service, by local authorities and by government at every level.
“The government must now ensure that the state no longer fails CSE survivors. Sammy’s law would help to achieve that.”
Speaking in the Commons, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerabilities Victoria Atkins said the government was considering the Supreme Court judgment ‘very carefully’.
“Sadly, I am not in a position to comment on other aspects of the urgent question, but we have, I think, acknowledged as a society that when children initially present as suspects, the police and others must ask questions to see whether there is more to the picture.
“I am sure that we all agree on that, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to reiterate it.”