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