Tom Brooks-Pollock, Telegraph (London), September 2, 2014
A researcher who raised the alarm over the sexual abuse of teenage girls in Rotherham more than a decade ago was sent on a ‘ethnicity and diversity course’ by child protection bosses who refused to act on her evidence.
The researcher, who was seconded to Rotherham council by the Home Office, was told she must “never, ever” again refer to the fact that the abusers were predominantly Asian men.
Speaking to the BBC’s Panorama programme under the condition of anonymity, the researcher said that she identified more 270 victims of trafficking and underage prostitution by mainly Muslim gangs in Rotherham.
But, despite being sent to Rotherham Council, the report–based on interviews with underage girls seeking help from the council’s anti-child prositution project, called Risky Business–was never published.
Indeed, the council tried unsuccessfully to sack the researcher after she resisted pressure to change her findings.
Data to back up the report’s findings also went missing from the Risky Business office the weekend after she submitted her report, the researcher told the programme.
Recalling the reaction of one official after she had submitted the report, the researcher said: “She said you must never refer to that again. You must never refer to Asian men.
“And her other response was to book me on a two-day ethnicity and diversity course to raise my awareness of ethnic issues.”
One of the girls who was allegedly abused, whose name was changed to Isabel to protect her identity, said that her abuser told her he would “play the race card” if the police tried to take action.
Martin Kimber, chief executive of Rotherham Borough Council, said: “The alleged ‘raid’ on the Risky Business office is not something that I am aware of and having made appropriate checks within the council, I am unable to find anyone who recognises this series of events as they have been presented to us.
“Similarly, I have been unable to find any reference within the Alexis Jay report to the alleged incident and have no other independent means of corroborating the allegations that are being put forward. If further information is made available which enables me to do so, I would be happy to look into it.”
A South Yorkshire Police statement, released in response to the programme, said: “South Yorkshire Police is determined to bring offenders of child sexual exploitation (CSE) to justice and takes seriously allegations of sexual offences regardless of how long ago they took place.
“The force has increased officers working in CSE from 10 to 45 over the last year, which shows how seriously we take this crime and preventing young people becoming victims.
“A number of large-scale investigations looking at historical and current sexual offences in Rotherham are ongoing and involve a large number of victims.
The Independent on Sunday reported over the weekend that the Home Office Select Committee will investigate how much the Home Office knew about the scandal from 2001.