CHILDREN in Rotherham as young as NINE were groomed, trafficked and raped by members of the Pakistani community for SIXTEEN years and were let down by the Labour-run council because they feared being branded ‘racist.’
Rotherham council was accused of a ‘staggering culture of denial’ that allowed more than 1,400 vulnerable girls to be routinely abused by gangs of Asian men, a report claimed.
The damning report, written by former Victims’ Commissioner, Louise Casey, exposed the true extent of the council’s failings and accused those in charge of deliberately trying to cover up scandal and silence whistle-blowers.
In 2015, when the report was published, Labour Cabinet of Rotherham Council resigned and then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced he was sending in Government Commissioners to run things.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) also announced that it was extending its investigation into child sexual exploitation in the town to cover a number of “potentially criminal matters” that had been uncovered by the report.
The NCA would not be drawn on what areas it will be investigating, but it is understood allegations of attempted cover ups at the council, will be explored further by investigators.
Ms Casey’s team of inspectors was ordered into Rotherham Council last year after Professor Alexis Jay’s shocking report revealed the extent of child sexual exploitation that had existed in Rotherham since the late 1990s.
Her report, published in August revealed how the victims were routinely let down by those who were charged with safeguarding their welfare.
Despite the appalling revelations and victim testimonies contained in the Jay report, Ms Casey said she had been greeted by a council that was still in complete denial about the extent of the problem.
Describing the reaction she received when interviewing council members, she said: “They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said.
“If there was a problem they certainly were not told – it was someone else’s job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them.”
Inspectors also found there had been a widespread reluctance among officials to address the problem for fear of being labelled racist, something which the report said had helped fuel the rise of the far-right in the area.
Ms Casey wrote: “The issue of race is contentious, with staff and members lacking the confidence to tackle difficult issues for fear of being seen as racist or upsetting community cohesion.
“By failing to take action against the Pakistani heritage male perpetrators of CSE in the borough, the Council has inadvertently fuelled the far right and allowed racial tensions to grow, it has done a great disservice to the Pakistani heritage community and the good people of Rotherham as a result.
“This has allowed perpetrators to remain at large, has let victims down, and perversely, has allowed the far right to try and exploit the situation. These may have been unintended consequences but the impact remains the same and reaches into the present day.”
The report also criticised the role of the police in the scandal, stating that there were “numerous occasions when girls were not believed”.
The report went on: “They were threatened with wasting police time, they were told they had consented to sex and, on occasion, they were arrested at the scene of a crime, rather than the perpetrators.”
Ms Casey praised the bravery of whistle-blowers in exposing the truth about the scandal but accused council officials of failing to listen to them.
The report said that the council went to “considerable lengths” to cover up information adding: “It has created an unhealthy climate where people fear to speak out”.
In a statement to the Commons, Mr Pickles said: “Some councillors have not lived up to the high standards expected of those in public life or their positions of responsibility.”
Shadow communities secretary, Hilary Benn, welcomed the proposals and said it was clear the council had been more concerned with protecting its reputation than safeguarding its children.
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion also welcomed the package announced by Mr Pickles.
She said what she had read in the report had been “disgusting”, with a new horror on every page.