Child sexual exploitation Rotherham: Bombshell report claims Asian men giving teenage girls mobile phones and are being sold for sex from petrol station and takeaway

A damning new report alleges that child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham is a “continuing problem” and has slammed the council and police for not taking enough action.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 3:56 pm

The report, by the Rotherham Conservative Group, says a working group made up of Conservative councillors has found “multiple examples of active grooming and CSE in multiple locations across Rotherham” – seven years after the Jay Report estimated that 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

The group say that although they are “unable to verify all of these claims”, they are confident that they come from “reliable sources who work on the front line”.

What did the report uncover?

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A damning new report alleges that child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham is a “continuing problem” and has slammed the council and police for not taking enough action.

The working group say they have uncovered examples of grooming and CSE in Rawmarsh, Wath, Greasbrough, Eastwood and Clifton.

The report alleges that teenage girls have been given mobile phones by older Asian men, and are being picked up late at night; that girls are being sold for sex from a petrol station and takeaway shop, and that girls are being taken by older Asian men to a fast-food restaurant, and then other men are taking them to locations across the north of England.

It also alleges that following the tightening of taxi licensing, perpetrators have moved to using private vehicles, though in some instances taxis are still used, and that some perpetrators are grooming children through social media, and then moving to in-person abuse.

The report states that concerned members of the community, including residents and business owners, reported their suspicions to their councillor, and reports have been made by adult survivors of CSE who look out for suspicious activity.

It adds that this information has been passed to the police, at Inspector level or above, and most information has been passed to the council.

However, the working group say they are “concerned that lack of confidence inthe police is leading to under-reporting of suspicious activities, and that “internal council processes, including to protect whistleblowers, are inadequate”.

How have these reports been addressed?

The working group say in the report that they have been”unable to identify any proper actions taken by the council in response to reports of possible grooming and CSE-related activity,” and say the response by South Yorkshire Police “has likewise been lacking”.

“The working group is concerned that some police officers simply do not want to hear about CSE, and certainly do not want to take proper action to investigate and protect children,” adds the report.

What action does the group want to see?

The working group has tabled a notice of motion to Rotherham Council’s next full council meeting on November 10, demanding that the council “acknowledges that the true scale of CSE in Rotherham”.

The group has also asked that the council train its staff and contractors to recognise grooming and CSE, and demanded a “full and unreserved apology to survivors”.

Other demands include a review of council procedures to handle reports of CSE, target “known and potential” CSE hot spots, and improve support for survivors.

Councillor Emily Barley, leader of the Rotherham Council Conservative Group, said: “When councillors reported their concerns and passed specific intelligence, including locations, times, activities, names and number plates to Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police, they were variously ignored or treated as a nuisance.

“The council seems to think that CSE is in the past and refers to what they did from 2014 to 2018 to tackle it, but what we’ve heard is that the model used by perpetrators has changed.

“Organised gangs are grooming girls and boys and then criminally and sexually exploiting them. They are targeting vulnerable children, sometimes online, and then doing some of the most horrific things imaginable to them.

“Meanwhile, councillors and council officers are invested in the idea that CSE is in the past.

“We’re not sure whether it’s incompetence or cover up, but either way it’s not good enough.

“Every day that the council refuses to accept there’s a problem, children are being groomed, raped, and trafficked. The recent individual cases I have heard about are absolutely heart-breaking, and seven years after the Jay Report there is simply no excuse for doing nothing about it.”

What have South Yorkshire Police said?

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, says the report detailing allegations of CSE contains “untruths”.

Dr Billlings said that the force had “apologised for that time and have been determined to learn from past mistakes,” following the Jay Report in 2014.

“The authors say they have supplied information to the police that has not been acted on. This is not true,” added Dr Billings.

“Every piece of information they supplied has been followed up, but most of it was so vague that little could be done with it.

He added that South Yorkshire Police currently have 35active CSE cases with 29 suspects arrested.

South Yorkshire Police say that they are “absolutely clear” that CSE “remains a problem in Rotherham as it does right across the country,” adding that they have dedicated teams working to tackle CSE.

A spokesperson said: “There will always be people intent on harming children for their own gains. We are working tirelessly to bring those people to justice but even more importantly to prevent harm occurring in the first place.

“This has included the creation of dedicated CSE teams working in partnership with Rotherham Council to ensure information is shared in quick time.

“We also established the Operation MakeSafe which sees dedicated officers provide training to staff in key locations who may have opportunity to spot the signs of CSE. This has included hotels receptionists, taxi drivers and take away staff amongst many, many others.

“We have a monthly working group which details the intelligence and investigations we are working on including the reports received by the Conservative Group. We have previously invited the group to attend this meeting and will extend this offer again in the hope that we can better inform them of the extensive work underway.

What has Rotherham Council said?

Suzanne Joyner, Rotherham Council’s strategic director for children and young people’s services said: “The council takes all allegations of child abuse very seriously, including those allegations made by this group of councillors.

“Our multi-agency team of social workers, police, and voluntary sector partners works with children who may be at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation.

“We work with Barnardo’s in every school in the borough to improve awareness of appropriate relationships and the dangers of grooming, and we commission services to support survivors.

“Rotherham’s approach has been independently inspected and found to be successful in reducing the risks to our young people. Indeed Ofsted found that Rotherham’s Children’s Services had been ‘transformed’.

“Where intelligence is received relating to potential child sexual exploitation, this is reviewed on a regular basis, with police and social workers taking the necessary steps to safeguard children where necessary.

“Clearly not every allegation will be validated once it has been properly investigated. Based on the information we have received, this process seems to have been followed fully in relation to the allegations made by the councillors.

“I would continue to urge anyone with concerns to report these through to Children’s Services, or to the police using the 101 number.

What has the council leader said?

Councillor Chris Read, Labour leader of Rotherham Council said: “If you look at almost every comment I have made about child sexual exploitation over the last six years, I have always said that there will always be men in our community – as in every community – who want to use children for their own sexual gratification.

“We are more aware of that than perhaps anywhere else in the country.

“That’s why we continue with our multi-agency specialist team, bringing expert support to children who may fall victim to abusers. The number of children being supported by the service is published alongside other information about council services. We have absolutely no place for complacency.

“Our ReachOut project, delivered by Barnardo’s, is the biggest of its kind anywhere in the country, working in every school in the borough to improve awareness of appropriate relationships and the dangers of grooming. Our post-abuse support services receive strong endorsement from survivors who have used them, and are amongst the most comprehensive in England.

“Our partnership approach is constantly challenging itself to improve and only this week we have seen another Rotherham child abuser sentenced to twenty years in prison.

“It is therefore alarming to see the Conservative Group attempting to politicise this issue in this way, seemingly based on anecdotal evidence, which they have only brought to my attention through the media.

“As councillors they have access not just to me, but to the Cabinet member for Children’s Services, the Council’s Chief Executive, and if necessary to the independent Chair of our multi-agency safeguarding board.

“It is deeply concerning to me that rather than use these channels to directly address the issues they believe they have identified, they have chosen to store them up and try to publicise them in such a partisan way.

“If they had taken the time to do so, they would have realised that many of the actions they are calling for – including training and awareness raising – are already very much part of the work being undertaken, and have been for some considerable period of time.”