'I was failed by the authorities' - Sheffield foster kid pimped out to 50 men by child prostitution gang leader speaks out
Girl A, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was groomed, drugged and raped by around 50 clients of Amanda Spencer, formerly of Canklow Road, Canklow, Rotherham, while she was in foster care in 2012.
Speaking after Friday’s sentencing, Girl A says that both Sheffield social services and South Yorkshire Police knew what was happening to her, and that in the three months she spent being prostituted by Spencer, 26, she was reported missing 50 times.
“They knew what was happening to me but kept me in the same place, and kept failing my safety,” said Girl A, now aged 22.
She added: “I was in foster care and all the professionals around me that knew about it weren’t helping me and saving me.
“I was trapped, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was stuck in this circle and these men were grooming me, and she was grooming me and I couldn’t leave and I had no mum and no dad.
“I have been interviewed by police a lot, but they still haven’t done the right thing.”
Girl A says that while the police and those involved with her foster placements did look for her, and did put up missing person signs during that time, she believes that more should have been done to protect her.
She said: “Nobody listened to me, and I still carried on being controlled and trapped in this circle where I wasn’t able to get out of until I was 20 and I’ve moved far, far away now from that, from Sheffield.
“The local authority, Sheffield Council and South Yorkshire Police failed me completely because I told them what happened.
"I told them I was a 15-year-old girl and I was raped and they brushed it under the carpet and did nothing about it.”
Commenting on the way she was treated by Spencer, Girl A, said: “I was 15-years-old, I was just a young girl, and she knew how to make me that more weaker and things would be happening to me straight away and she would be laughing and she would let these people take me into a bedroom.
"And she wouldn’t care, as if she knew what was going to happen, that’s why she took me there but obviously I was just a child, I had no idea.”
In 2015, police brought charges against Spencer and one of her clients, Taleb Bapir, 39, who raped Girl A at his home in Verdon Street, Neepsend when she refused to have sex with him as instructed by Spencer.
Following a seven week trial, Spencer and Bapir were both found guilty of child prostitution offences relating to Girl A and on Friday they were sentenced to three and 10 years in prison, respectively.
Spencer’s sentence is in addition to a 12 year one she received in 2014 for other child prostitution offences, bringing her total sentence to 15 years in prison.
Girl A has now moved out of South Yorkshire, and says her life continues to be blighted by flashbacks, and the continued emotional trauma of what happened to her at the hands of Spencer and her clients.
Jayne Ludlam, executive director of children, young people and families at Sheffield City Council said: “We have huge sympathy for victims in this situation. We would like to reassure the public that we do always listen, act, and pass information on to the police. But there is no doubt that this is a horribly difficult situation for victims to be in.
“In this case, as soon as we were aware of any risks around sexual exploitation, we contacted South Yorkshire Police and asked them to pursue the perpetrators. We also shared the information with other key partners and continued to provide regular support to the victim from our sexual exploitation service and mental health services.
“We will never be complacent though. We don’t claim to have all the answers but we will always tackle these issues head on, and take all opportunities to lean and improve our practice.
"As with any case of this nature we will review all the new information, and look at the way we work. We will continue to improve and develop our services.”
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) and bringing offenders to justice is a priority for South Yorkshire Police. We are now operating with a deeper understanding of child sexual exploitation and are acutely aware of the grooming process and the impact it has on a child.
“Since the publication of the Alexis Jay Report in 2014, we have changed the way that we identify and investigate cases of CSE.
“For example, more police officers and staff dedicated to tackling issues like CSE now work across South Yorkshire and specialist multi-agency safeguarding hubs are now in place in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield.
“Three high-profile criminal investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham have resulted in 20 people being jailed for over 280 years combined for a large number of serious sexual offences.
"This is in addition to the recent Sheffield child sexual exploitation trial, where five offenders were jailed for over 40 years. These convictions could not have been achieved without the trust and confidence of the victims, many of whom bravely faced their abusers in court and gave evidence.
“We work alongside our partners in local authorities, health and the voluntary sector to provide bespoke and specialist support to victims of child sexual exploitation while we investigate these horrific crimes. The victim engagement process and partnership working we used in the high-profile investigations is now being shared as good practise with other forces investigating child sexual exploitation and abuse.
“In March 2016, Professor John Drew published the findings of his independent review into how South Yorkshire Police responds to child sexual exploitation. His report found that ‘considerable lessons had been learned’ and that there have been ‘significant improvements’.
“In June 2016 Operation Makesafe, South Yorkshire Police’s specialist child protection training package, featured in a global study on the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism. The initiative is now being used by other police forces across the country and is recognised by the College of Policing as best practise.
“Our work does result in convictions, so we urge young people and their families to come forward and report their concerns, and to have confidence that we will take what we are told seriously, and that we will act.”