Why Rotherham Cabinet members must be charged with Malfeasance in Public Officehttps://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/401125/46966_Report_of_Inspection_of_Rotherham_WEB.pdf
Extracts from Louise Casey report on CSA in Rotherham
The good people of Rotherham and beyond Inspectors found many committed, hardworking and dedicated staff working for Rotherham Council including frontline staff and social workers. Inspectors acknowledge that it cannot be easy for them to go into work every day intending to do a good job, amid a stream of criticism of their organisation, let alone marches from the English Defence League (EDL) in their town centre. During the course of the inspection we came upon various individuals and organisations who were worthy of particular mention and praise by the inspection,
however we were conscious that to list them in this report may cause them difficulties either professionally or personally. However, our sincere thanks must go to two particular groups of people who spoke to us under the most testing circumstances; the individuals and whistle-blowers who came forward bravely to give evidence to us and of course, the victims of child sexual exploitation and their families who courageously recounted the awful things that happened to them.
WHAT HAPPENED IN ROTHERHAM AND WHY IT MATTERS
“I think it’s quite sad, not just what happened to my daughter but how the system has responded. I was brought up to believe that when something bad happened, you told the police or social services and they help you - something would be done about it - that isn’t what happened.”
A victim’s father Professor Alexis Jay’s report in August 2014 set out a history of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over 16 years. The Council commissioned the report following mounting concerns from outside bodies about CSE in the town. Over 2012 and 2013, Rotherham had been on the front page of The Times newspaper. RMBC’s Chief Executive and Strategic Director of Children’s Services had appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee as had the police and
Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police. The then Police and Crime Commissioner had requested three reports into the poor handling of CSE by South Yorkshire Police and sexual exploitation in Yorkshire and the North West was a live issue.
The Home Affairs Select Committee report on 5 June 2013 on CSE criticised RMBC and South Yorkshire Police. “Both Rochdale and Rotherham Councils were inexcusably slow to realise that the widespread, organised sexual abuse of children, many of them in the care of the local authority, was taking place on their doorstep. This is due in large part to a woeful lack of professional curiosity or indifference.”
“We have heard evidence that South Yorkshire Police Force have previously let down victims of localised grooming and child sexual exploitation— as a result, we would expect the force be striving to redeem their reputation.”
In August 2013, The Times ran a story regarding the Deputy Leader of Rotherham Council as having been involved some years previously in the handover of a girl to police who had been a victim of CSE.
In September 2013, the Council commissioned the Jay Report and the long standing council Leader apologised to the “young people and their families [who] have been badly let down by the Council in the past.”
Professor Alexis Jay was commissioned to establish what had happened in Rotherham. Her review’s terms of reference were very wide ranging. She was to look back at the past and see whether and how things had changed today.
WHAT IS CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION?
“I want you all to...look for the child that is unhappy, that doesn't want to be at school, that has no friends, that seems to be going out an awful lot, that could be driving around in cars, has more than one mobile, that has an attitude, that seems to have a lot of boyfriends and ask yourself, is this a victim of CSE?”
From a presentation given by a victim of CSE In order to look at how effectively RMBC was tackling CSE, Inspectors needed to have a working understanding of the issue. It is, undoubtedly, a very difficult problem for public services to deal with and there are many complexities involved. But that should never be used as an excuse for inaction.
CSE is a form of child abuse in which perpetrators develop total control over their victims. It starts with a grooming process, in which victims are showered with gifts and attention. They are treated like adults, for example, by being taken out in cars. The young person can believe that the perpetrator is their boyfriend and that they are in love. This is a powerful thing, especially for young children or young people who may have difficult family backgrounds and crave love and attention. As a result, they do not complain. The grooming process isolates the victim from friends and family.
At some point, drugs, alcohol and sex may be introduced. They are forced not only to have sex with their abuser but sometimes other men too. This is coupled with more overt coercion, threats and violence. By now, victims may be dependent on drugs and alcohol, afraid of their abuser, isolated from their family and scared that they will not be believed or that worse may happen to them or their families if they make a complaint.
The consequences of CSE are appalling. Victims suffer from suicidal feelings and often self-harm. Many become pregnant. Some have to manage the emotional consequences of miscarriages and abortions while others have children that they are unable to parent appropriately.
The abuse and violence continues to affect victims into adulthood. Many enter violent and abusive relationships. Many suffer poor mental health and addiction. The predators often target children with difficult backgrounds, including those in care, who are particularly vulnerable to grooming. But they are also sometimes able to exploit those from stable backgrounds. That families, despite their very best efforts, are unable to prevent the abuse reflects the power of the abusers and the degree of control they exert.
Tackling CSE is incredibly difficult. Noone should underestimate this. It requires spotting the signs, helping young people to recognise their experience as abuse and getting them to trust public services instead of their abusers, often in the face of serious threats. Then it requires supporting victims through the criminal justice system, where they may have to ‘relive’ the experience again. There are challenges in gaining sufficient evidence for prosecution. When child sexual exploitation is happening on the scale that it did in Rotherham, there will be multiple perpetrators and victims, and establishing a complete picture by fully appreciating all the links and connections, will be difficult.
CSE embodies issues which are incredibly difficult to deal with. First, serious sexual violence. Second, victims who may reject help. The grooming involved is a form of brainwashing, which means that even though the victims are being abused emotionally, physically and sexually, they can be loyal to their abuser, rather than their family or social worker. Third, the age of the victims involved. Teenage sexuality is a confusing issue for adults and adolescents alike. Many of these girls are on the cusp of adulthood and want to behave like adults but do not yet have the emotional capacity to do so. Abusers exploit this uncertainty.
Many local authorities and other services are struggling with this complex crime and as the OFSTED report on CSE found few have got it right. Given all the difficulties involved, this is not surprising. But CSE is a horrifying and brutal crime with devastating consequences for victims and their families. Councils and their partners must not give up on them.
Tackling CSE effectively requires a council and its partners to mobilise their services and powers together. The Council has a duty to safeguard the victims. It also governs the landscape in which CSE is played out including many schools, care homes, parks, taxis and take away food shops. Councils have powers of licensing and regulation which can be used to disrupt illegal activity in these places and keep the community safe. This is in addition to the duties and powers of the police. We accept all these challenges make tacking exploitation difficult. But they cannot be used as excuses.
Fundamentally, this is about the rape and abuse of children by adults. Victims cannot be abandoned to their abusers. Authorities cannot claim they are powerless to act.
CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION – A PICTURE IN ROTHERHAM
From a review of case file s and files on police operations, information from Risky Business, and from victims, parents and professionals, it is possible to present a picture of sexual exploitation in Rotherham as it developed.
Vulnerable girls, most frequently those with difficult family backgrounds, and or a history of being in care, were particularly affected. Girls were as young as nine when they began to be exploited.
Perpetrators in Rotherham appear to have been largely from the Pakistani heritage Community. Perpetrators used what is known as ‘street grooming’ to prepare their victims for exploitation.
Some of the exploitation was connected to a nucleus of men or gangs of men who were already involved in criminal activity, including supplying drugs, trafficking, sexual exploitation and prostitution across Rotherham and South Yorkshire.
There were other less organised groups of predatory men who would seek out young girls and form emotional bonds with them. Girls would be contacted initially by phone or by text, often by a young adult male who they had met on the street, or in the shopping centre or park. These younger men who carried out the grooming weren’t always the abuser. Girls were misled into believing these men were their boyfriends.
Once their trust had been gained, the girls were vulnerable to sexual abuse and were even shared and passed around other men or groups of men. Victims would start to receive phone calls from numerous other males wishing to meet them and engage in sexual acts, and be pressured by their ‘boyfriend’ into doing what was asked. They would be picked up in taxis and cars, from schools or children’s homes or from their own family homes. Girls would go missing from home regularly and for extended periods. They would be taken to restaurants or to other properties where they would have sex with one or more men.
They were given drugs and alcohol which they then had to ‘pay for’ in sex. If they did not concur, they would be subject to rape, multiple rapes, rape with physical violence, and threatened with weapons.
Perpetrators in Rotherham generated real fear. They were often perceived to be connected to other forms of criminality and violence and victims and their families were too frightened to speak and did not feel the police could protect them. They were threatened and intimidated into silence. Victims and their families speak of groups of men in cars waiting outside their house or outside children’s homes, sometimes attempting to break in. Phone calls and texted threats, including threats to rape other members of the family, were described to us.
Fear was also evident at times among professionals, teachers, hostel workers and youth workers. Some children needed to be placed out of the area and others in secure units for their own protection. The grooming was so effective that, despite the abuse and violence, victims would continue to attempt to return to their abusers.
Other patterns in Rotherham involved lone offenders targeting under 16’s. Adult males, and on occasion females, with dysfunctional lives allowed girls and boys to gather at their properties, supplying them with drink, drugs and cigarettes. Vulnerable children often became subject to sexual abuse in these environments.
RESPONSE TO PROFESSOR JAY’S REPORT - DENIAL
Professor Jay’s Independent Inquiry into CSE in Rotherham was treated with disbelief and evasion of the issue. When Inspectors commenced work in Rotherham we were struck by the overwhelming denial of what Professor Jay set out in her report. This attitude was so prevalent that we had to go back through many of the aspects of her work in order to satisfy ourselves that the Council had no grounds upon which further action could be delayed. We soon discovered, however, that RMBC has a history of denial. We deal with this later in the report.
Inspectors noted four distinct forms of denial which arose in interviews with both Members and officers. These were striking in their frequency and their similarity. Even some of the same expressions were used.
1. Denial of the accuracy of Professor Jay’s methods and findings.
2. Denial of the extent of the issue of CSE, particularly in Rotherham.
3. Denial of culpability and belief that CSE was ‘being dealt with elsewhere’.
4. Denial that CSE remained a significant problem, although acknowledging that it may have been in the past. Denial of the accuracy of Jay’s methods and findings. The clearest manifestation of denial was that Member after Member and officer after officer disputed the methodology of the Professor Jay’s report. The numbers of victims were challenged, the cases she referred to were questioned and the interviews she had undertaken were queried.
When asked, 70% of the current Rotherham Councillors we spoke to (including those in the Cabinet) disputed Professor Jay’s findings. Officers complained that Professor Jay had got their employment dates wrong, or used the wrong job title, that she had got the attendance list for a meeting wrong, that she had not spoken to someone they considered important or had spoken to someone who had an axe to grind, or that she had not spent enough time with others.
One officer, when called to interview, brought a copy of the Jay report which he had scrutinised line by line. He then proceeded to emphasise what he believed were its flaws and inaccuracies