The Rotherham grooming case shows the dangers of confusing criminality with culture

by Peter Watt

If you are a parent then there are some things that scare you more than others.  Someone else hurting your children is pretty high up that list.

The details emerging from Rotherham over the last few months about the systematic abuse of young girls are truly the stuff of parental nightmare.  But it’s all made worse because it now seems that for over ten years those charged with protecting children and young people failed.  In fact worst of all, they decided to look the other way!

They made a choice; protect children in the face of overwhelming evidence of sexual abuse and cruelty or worry more about some misconceived notion of “cultural sensitivities”, as if there is any culture where rape is acceptable.

They chose the latter.

It is important to say that the Times (£) has led the way in exposing both the abuse and the cover up.  And some of the details that they have uncovered from confidential reports are some of the most shocking that you can imagine.  The documents revealed by the Times give details of events over the years for which no one was prosecuted such as:

  • fifty-four Rotherham children were linked to sexual exploitation by three brothers from one British Pakistani family, 18 identifying one brother as their “boyfriend” and several allegedly made pregnant by him;
  • a 14-year-old girl from a loving, supportive family was allegedly held in a flat and forced to perform sex acts on five men, four of them Pakistani, plus a 32-year-old Iraqi Kurd. She gave a filmed police interview and identified her abusers;
  • one girl, 15, spent days in hospital after a broken bottle was allegedly forced inside her by two young British Pakistani men in a park, causing her to bleed extensively;
  • a 13-year-old girl was found at 3am with disrupted clothing in a house with a large group of Asian men who had fed her vodka. A neighbour reported the girl’s screams. Police arrested the child for being drunk and disorderly but did not question the men.

But the police and local authorities knew – and did nothing!

As the Times says:

“A confidential 2010 report by the police intelligence bureau warning that thousands of such crimes were committed in the county each year.

It contains explosive details about the men responsible for the most serious, co-ordinated abuse. ‘Possibly the most shocking threat is the existence of substantial and organised offender networks that groom and exploit victims on a worrying scale,’ the report says.

‘Practitioners throughout the force state there is a problem with networks of Asian offenders both locally and nationally. This was particularly stressed in Sheffield and even more so in Rotherham, where there appears to be a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females.’ Such groups are said to have trafficked South Yorkshire child victims’ to many other cities, including Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Dover”.

But nothing was done; why?  Well, in 2010 the Rotherham safeguarding children board produced another report.  The board is made up of senior representation from local schools, social services, voluntary sector and the police.  Now remember that no one had been prosecuted but enough was clearly known and there were enough concerns for a report to be commissioned into what had been going on, in fact still was going on.  They helpfully noted that the crimes (presumably they meant alleged) had:

“cultural characteristics . . . which are locally sensitive in terms of diversity.”

And for the avoidance of doubt as to where priorities lay:

“There are sensitivities of ethnicity with potential to endanger the harmony of community relationships. Great care will be taken in drafting . . . this report to ensure that its findings embrace Rotherham’s qualities of diversity. It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided.”

So scores of girls aged 12 – 16 from a small geographical area are groomed, gang raped and then intimidated into silence by a small group of men of Pakistani origin and:

“It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided.”

What bloody planet are these people on?  No one is suggesting that all Pakistani men are rapists for god’s sake. There is nothing genetic or cultural about criminality.

But a sick and distorted sense of political and cultural sensitivity allowed criminals to go unprosecuted and worse the horror to continue for years for young girls in Rotherham.

The irony is that this “culturally sensitive” approach will be seen as manna from heaven to the racists who will surely exploit this to the max.

Sadly the voices of most local families of Pakistani origin won’t be heard.  Their horror, their sense of shame about an incredibly small and nasty group of misogynist men from their community, will be missed by many.

And in reality they were also let down by the decisions taken by the local police and local authorities.   Local MP Dennis MacShane has been a refreshingly strong voice this week saying:

“There’s a culture here of denial and cover-up and a refusal to accept the reality that we have men living in the Rotherham community who treat young girls as objects for their sexual pleasure. It’s time to tell the truth. We must root out this evil.”

He is right.  Andrew Mitchell may well be a pompous prat who is rude to policeman.  Nick Clegg may have been making another ‘make or break speech’.  But please can we get a sense of priority!  The really big story this week has been the uncovering of what surely must be one of the most shocking and largest scale child abuse scandals ever?  And quite frankly it is that that we should be getting hot under the collar about and demanding a full public enquiry into.

Or is industrial scale rape simply not newsworthy enough?

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party

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10 Responses to “The Rotherham grooming case shows the dangers of confusing criminality with culture”

  1. Jon says:

    The statement from the council sounded horribly familiar to that of Sharon Shoesmith when Baby P died, procedures had been followed, blah, blah.

    Thank god Dennis Macshane got elected in 2010 and has spoken out about the vile episode.
    Why did the previous MP for Rotherham say nothing for 10 years and leave it all to brave Dennis?

  2. Mouth of the Umber says:

    There are certain people in current society who take the view that we must offend anybody – this doe not mean going out of your way to deliberately offend others – it means they have little or no thought-through principles. No moral backbone. These people are also found in places of authority and power. It means that we, as a society, are expected to appease some considerably stupid ideas, think about blackboards for a moment.
    Having served as a Parish Councillor I asked the Police at a Parish Council meeting about cars parked on the pavement, therefore preventing; disabled in wheel chairs, young children and older people with walking frames etc from using the path and having to walk in the road. The responce was that the Police wanted to work with the community and didn’t want to upset the people/community who parked in the road. But appeared to upset the law abiding people who were forced into the road. This isn’t anywhere near as horrific as happened in Rochdale and other places, but it does show what happens when people with no moral backbone are allowed to prescribe social norms

  3. swatantra says:

    The time really come for some straight talking. We have to be prepared to speak out and say unequivocally that certain practices and customs and traditions are morally wrong. That, just because your culture or religion or whatever says so, and you’ve grown up with it, its ok. Well, here’s some news for you: its not ok. Put a stop to it. Change. Come into the C21.
    But I think what Peter is really talking about here is ‘culture’ in the ‘institutional’ sense. The kind of ‘culture’ that has grown up in Social Services, institutions etc, which says that we can’t tell people or direct individuals about how to behave, for fear of treading on their toes and hurting their feelings. Well that kind of sentiment has to got to go. Authorities have a duty to tell and instruct and train and coach their citizens about how to be better citizens or better parents and take responsibility.
    We always talk about the 1% filthy rich holding all the wealth, but there is another 1%, the problem families etc that use up all our resources in just trying to keep them on track. And often the money just disappears down the drain, because they don’t change their behaviour and carry on regardless. We need stronger sanctions.

  4. Political Realist says:

    So Peter, you’re objecting on a Labour website to a Labour council’s policy in which they engaged in precisely the pandering to reactionary elements within Asian communities that Labour is famous for in most cities? Didn’t you change the postal voting rules precisely to make this sort of shit easier?

  5. Pete says:

    I am an ex-Labour Party member from Oldham. I still have friends in the Labour Party and unfortunately many of them still can’t bring themselves round to criticising other cultures no matter how justified the criticism is. One “feminist” I know called me a racist because I criticised the practise of female genital mutilation.

    To me this is a dangerous mindset that many on the left have gotten in to. It is a mindset that sees being called a racist as worse than turning a blind eye to child abuse.

    Political correctness has long passed its sell by date. It is now too often used to stifle debate. And if anyone thinks that covering up crimes like the rapes in Rotherham is some protecting multiculturalism and preventing racial tension then they couldn’t be more wrong.

    Also the child rape cases in Rotherham, Rochdale and indeed all over the UK don’t have a race factor. They have a religion factor that most people are still reluctant, or even frightened, to mention.

    Finally I concur with Political Realist, why does the Labour Party pander to the most conservative section of British society? I no longer have a political party that I want to vote for. Because the Labour Party in its current form is not one that will vote for again. I want to live in a secular society not one run by religious nutters, no matter what the religion.

  6. Gillian Radcliffe, South Yorkshire says:

    How refreshing to read these sensible and frank views. I applaud Peter Watt for speaking out. I am sure others within the party – indeed across the whole political spectrum – must feel this way too.
    Sadly, what we are hearing from the agencies responsible for child safeguarding in Rotherham is just the mantra that “lessons have been learned”, when plainly they have not. The other standards responses are that it’s all in the past, that the facts have been exaggerated and that someone else is to blame… the media, the parents and the person who leaked the documents to the Times. It really is a shameful lack of accountability and integrity.
    Those in charge of children’s services during the past decade need to take a fresh look and admit their failings. Show some humility and some genuine remorse that the victims were so catastrophically cut adrift by those who should have cared about them and ended their torment. Be honourable: apologise and step down. And I include in this Shaun Wright, a former chair of the children’s safeguarding board who is currently seeking election at the county’s first Police & Crime Commissioner. He failed these girls both in his role on the council and on the Police Authority and does not have what it takes to make a competent and trustworthy PCC, in my view. Please stand down and make way for a better candidate. If Labour can’t do better in South Yorkshire, they are in a sorry state.

  7. Ruth McCullough says:

    Good to see a Labour website actually discussing the Rotherham grooming gangs despite it all happening under a Labour Council. Unfortunately the Council & their Social Work employees seemed to be so steeped in their pit of Political Correctness that they are not about to change. Today’s headlines (24/11) details three small vulnerable children snatched from the security of a foster home together because Social Services considered they were ‘at risk’ because their foster parents belong to UKIP – a legal British political Party. How ignorant do the Social Services staff have to be to think that their political thinking is the one & only correct one? A pity those same staff were not so concerned with child protection when it came to the young victims of the grooming gangs. Sackings should be the order of the day if Social Services staff are unable to 1. Understand the aims, objectives & methods of ALL legal political Parties 2. Realise that people who support a different Party to the one the Council supports actually have the right to do so. 2. Realise that not supporting the Labour Party does not automatically make you a racist. UKIP will win hundreds of supporters simply through the ignorance & crass stupidity of Rotherham Social Services who will, no doubt come out with the immortal line ‘lessons have been learned’. Have they thought about the effect on the little kids of being snatched from a home where they could all be together & were settling into nicely? Where are they now? Still fostered together or split up? Or in a care Home being lined up for a bit of abuse?

  8. Gurjeet Singh Samra says:

    All these people are Muslims, very large majority from Pakistan? Why label them Asian? Police and All relevant Authorities need to name these people , their Religion, Their original country? Why blame other Asian Communities while they are all law abiding citizes

  9. Adele Page says:

    I don’t understand why this is being made a ‘race’ problem. It is an abuse problem. Its shouldn’t matter what ethnic group or religious group these men are from. It matters that they are abusing young girls and people who should be protecting these victims such as the police, the council and the government aren’t pushing to arrest and prosecute these vile men.

    Most of these comments are from 2012 and it is now 2014 and still there have been only a small group of men help accountable for their actions. Why is this? Why isn’t pressure being applied to bring justice and make our streets safe for our daughters.

    This is happening now and the South Yorkshire Police aims for 2013/14 are ‘car crime and to be seen within the community’ it should be to prosecute known predators and stop covering up serious crime.

    I really do hope that the people who are and were involved in covering up and dismissing these young girls cannot sleep at night.

  10. shaunthebrummie says:

    Adele Page=Labour Apologist….still trying to spread blame..mitigate..and deny through non mention of the fact 95% were muslim pakistanis….

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