Jason Farrell, Sky News, January 29, 2015
A survivor of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham claims she still sees her abusers “driving young girls in their car”, as a Sky News investigation reveals hundreds of new cases continue to emerge.
In August 2014, the Alexis Jay report identified 1,400 cases of child sexual exploitation in the Yorkshire town.
But Sky News has learned that hundreds more cases were known to authorities prior to its publication and that hundreds more are being reported.
Victims continue to feel let down by authorities.
One survivor “Gemma” told Sky News: “It’s still going on if not worse, because now they’re having to hide it more.
“I’m still seeing my abusers driving young girls in their car. They’re untouchable.”
The Alexis Jay report found that hundreds of children had been sexually exploited, mostly by Asian gangs, and that Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire police had failed to tackle the problem.
Jayne Senior, who ran an outreach programme for victims in Rotherham called Risky Business, has revealed that she reported nearly 1,700 cases of grooming or sexual exploitation to the council’s children’s services between 1999 and 2011.
This was a shorter time period than that examined by the report.
“I was accused of saying too much, of sharing too much information, reporting too much intelligence,” she told Sky News in her first interview.
“Risky Business didn’t make all this up. It was accused of making it all up and Alexis Jay exonerated all of that.”
The report found Risky Business was seen by the borough’s social care services “as something of a nuisance”.
It added that “there were too many examples of young people who were properly referred by Risky Business to children’s social care and who somehow fell through the net and were not treated with the priority they deserved”.
Risky Business was shut down in 2011 and victims have expressed frustration that a recent application to set up a new support group has been turned down by the council despite recommendations in the Jay report.
“It shouldn’t have been shut down,” one victim told Sky News.
“Because that was an agency that was trying to tackle the situation. But knowing now that it was all a cover-up then I think it was closed down because they were trying to tackle the problem.”
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said she was also baffled as to why Risky Business was discontinued.
“Genuinely, I have no idea why it was shut down. Why would you shut down a successful organisation that was demonstrating there was a massive need for their services and was proving results. They were getting prosecutions.”
She is leading calls for a national task force to be set up to combat large scale child abuse across the UK. She said she has been “overwhelmed” with new cases coming to her for help and advice.
As well as support, many victims are still seeking justice.
“Gemma” complained that local police “turned up suited an booted” outside her home with a panic alarm – showing neighbours that she was someone who had reported abuse.
“All they care about is getting a statement,” she said. “Six months on we’ve had no arrests, we’ve had no charges, evidence is still being lost.”
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “We look at each case individually to establish the most appropriate way to contact and visit victims throughout an investigation to ensure their personal safety is maintained.
“South Yorkshire Police has not received a complaint in relation to this alleged incident.”
Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Paul Lakin, said: “We accepted the recommendations of Professor Jay’s report and immediately acted to address the issues raised.
“We fully acknowledge that we should have done more in the past and have offered our sincere and heartfelt apologies to the victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.
“Make no mistake, protecting children and supporting the police in tackling child sexual exploitation is our highest priority.
“With regard to the 2002 Home Office researcher’s report, we take allegations of a “cover up” very seriously and have made strenuous efforts to obtain a full copy of the report. As yet, this has not been forthcoming.
“We are also working with our partners, including South Yorkshire Police, to identify cases where individuals may not have had the access to the services and support that they need.”