South Yorkshire MPs take part in grooming gangs debate in Parliament
A petition calling for the release of research into the “characteristics” of grooming gangs has been debated in Parliament, with contributions from South Yorkshire MPs.
In July 2018, the then Home Secretary Sajid Javid announced that the Home Office planned to conduct an inquiry into the characteristics associated with grooming by gangs.
However, in February 2020, the Independent newspaper reported that it had made a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for the research and any reports related to it, but the Home Office had refused to release the information.
Two petitions were launched, calling on the government to release the information in full – combined, they received more than 160,000 signatures.
Rotherham’s MP, Sarah Champion, formed a cross-party working group on child sexual exploitation (CSE), formed of MPs who had encountered gang-related CSE in their constituencies.
During the debate, she called for a number of measures to prevent grooming gangs in the future.
“I’ve spent eight years trying to get get justice for survivors of child sexual exploitation CSE, and to prevent grooming gangs,” she told the House of Commons.
“I’ve been vilified, I’ve been smeared, I’ve been threatened, and that’s by the far right, and the far left, who use this crime for their own political agenda.
“I want to turn to Rotherham, and we’re very fortunate because we have the National Crime agency carrying out operation Stovewood.
“It’s looking at cases of CSE by grooming gangs between 1997 and 2013. Already they’ve identified 1,569 survivors, 261 designated suspects at to date, we’ve had 20 convictions at court, and four await trial.
“I know survivors who are 70 years old. Think about the scale, and the length of time of this abuse.”
Ms Champion went on to make a number of recommendations to help prevent the abuse and secure convictions, including mandatory relationship education for primary school pupils, banning unregulated children’s care homes, and assigning a named person to each survivor.
“Fundamentally, the government needs to work in a cross departmental way to end this crime, once and for all,” she added.
Alexander Stafford, MP for Rother Valley, called for Sammy’s Law to be implemented- a campaign led by Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor of a grooming gang in Rotherham.
The law would see the victims of grooming gangs being pardoned for crimes they committed under the coercion of their abuser.
Mr Stafford said: “In two decades in Rotherham alone, 1,500 children, some as young as 11, were raped.
“Sammy Woodhouse, a brave survivor and one of my constituents, has proposed Sammy’s Law.
“We should pardon child sexual abused victims for the crimes they were coerced into committing.
“I would also remove the crimes committed by the children from the criminal criminal record.
“We must never again, allow such things to happen to our children.”