The Rotherham grooming gang scandal was a result of failures at an institutional level. It was also because men, predominantly from the British Pakistani community, opportunistically sought out to sexually abuse underage girls.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council commissioned an Independent Inquiry in October 2013. The time period covered was between 1997 – 2009 and 2009 – 2013. The author of the report is Baroness Alexis Jay.
The methodology used to carry out the report consisted of the following: reading a wide range of minutes, reports and case files. Furthermore, interviews were conducted with over a hundred respondents both individually and as a group.
It is not clear what the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham was, but a conservative estimate of 1400 was reached. Just over a third of the victims were already known to Children’s Services for both child protection and for reasons of neglect.
Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators. They were raped, trafficked, abused, abducted, beaten and intimidated. Furthermore, some children were doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns and made to witness rapes.
The report is clear: over the twelve-year period the report covered, a collective failure by political and police officers was blatant. The issue of CSE was raised by residential care and youth workers but was either downplayed or not prioritised.
Senior social work managers appear to not have appreciated the seriousness of the problem and therefore underplayed it. The Police regarded many of the child victims with contempt. In 2002, 2003 and 2006 stark evidence was brough to the attention of the Council and the Police.
The first report in 2002 was suppressed by senior managers because they disbelieved the evidence. The second and third report in 2003 and 2006 set out links between CSE with drugs, guns and criminality. All three reports were ignored.
When a small group of professionals came together & monitored children known to be involved in CSE or at risk of it, they were met with little to no help by their managers. This was further compounded when senior social workers & police thought the problem was exaggerated.
The Social Work managers and the Police appeared intent on reducing the numbers of children categorised as CSE. This is perhaps because at an operational level, staff appeared overwhelmed.
Whilst improvements were made to manage the workload from about 2007, in 2009 Children’s Services was understaffed and overstreteched to deal with the demand.
But a few years earlier, in 2004-2005, elected members and senior officers were told in the most explicit of terms what was happening. No one could say ‘We didn’t know’. Yet there are no records of this meeting or conclusion, apart from one minute taken.
In regards to the perpetrators, the majority of them were described as ‘Asian’ by the victims. Despite this, councillors did not engage with the Pakistani-heritage community. Instead, some councillors believed this was a ‘one-off problem’.
Staff also described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of the perpetrators. The fear of racism appears to have cripled their ability to robustly deal with the issue of CSE.
Furthermore, some operational staff reported that senior managers gave clear instructions not to raise the issue of ethnicity of the perpetrators.
In addition to this, the report notes: there was too much reliance by agencies on ‘traditional community leaders’ as the primary conduit of communication with the Pakistani-heritage community.
Pakistani-heritage women were critical of this approach, as they felt disenfranchised and believed it was also a barrier to other people coming forward to talk about CSE.
Furthermore, some people believed that the issue of CSE was ignored ‘wholescale’ in the same way other forms of abuse were ignored in the same community.
The report states: the greatest number of perpetrators of CSE in the U.K. are white men. The second largest are ‘Asian’ and in Rotherham, the majority of perpetrators were of Pakistani-heritage.
Tackling this became difficult. One senior officer suggested that Pakistani-heritage councillors acted as a barrier where the link between ethnicity and crime could have been investigated.
The rationale was that, opening up this issue would ‘give oxygen’ to racist perspectives and threaten ‘community cohesion’. The report asserts some validity to this claim, but doesn’t suggest that responsibility to manage this risk is on the authorities.
Whilst the majority of victims were white girls from working class families, women and girls from the Pakistani-heritage community were also victims from perpetrators within their own community.
Pakistani-heritage men, some taxi drivers, targeted girls outside their schools. Others targeted women, for the purposes of sex, using their status as landlords. They would then pass their numbers round to other men for the very same purposes.
The report notes: Pakistani-heritage girls and women were vulnerable to men from their own communities who manipulated cultural norms to prevent them from reporting their abuse.
This report and the information contained in it are not new. This is well established but serves as a reminder of how the authorities failed the victims of Pakistani-heritage grooming gangs.
Yet despite this, the town of Rotherham will be named the Children’s Capital of Culture in 2025. This seems to be some kind of sick joke!
Political correctness and a fear of causing ‘community tensions’ are two key reasons why this menace was not tackled in a robust and timely manner.
The victims were both underage girls from white working class families and others from the Pakistani-heritage community. Even women were at risk from the perpetrators.
But what is clear, is that the perpetrators were overwhelmingly from the Pakistani-heritage community – this cannot be ignored. Whether there is a link between ethnicity and this crime is yet to be proved or disproved. Research in this regard is parsimonious.
We need to have an honest discussion to deal with this menace and it must include the victims and their families. Pakistani-Heritage women must also be involved, as they felt disenfranchised previously.
While improvements at an operational level have been made, this must not be impacted by governmental cuts to services. The victims of grooming must be assured that this menace has the appropriate funding it requires.
A gentle reminder of the mentality we seem to be dealing with:
(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread originally tweeted by Wasiq Wasiq (@WasiqUK) on August 28, 2022.)