August 24: Earning trust of Rotherham abuse victims

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these CONTINUE to be traumatic times for Rotherham exactly one year after Professor Alexis Jay published her devastating report into the shocking scale of the town’s sex grooming scandal – and the extent to which the police, and council chiefs, betrayed at least 1,400 young girls who were being systematically abused on an industrial-scale by gangs of predominantly Asian men.

Many of those public figures at the centre of this unforgivable cover-up, including police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright, council leader Roger Stone and several others, are, thankfully, no longer in positions of responsibility, even though they appeared – for some time – to be in total denial about a crisis which led to Rotherham Council being branded as “not fit for purpose”.

Inevitably, it is going to take time for new safeguarding protocols to be embedded so the agencies concerned do investigate all abuse allegations in the future without fear of being branded ‘racist’ – the ramifications of the Jay report, one of the most shocking and harrowing in the recent history of local government, will continue to reverberate for many years to come.

Yet the continued focus on the failures of governance, exemplified by those combative Parliamentary’s select committee hearings which exposed Rotherham’s weak leadership so ruthlessly, must not detract from the most important people of all: the victims.

Though police investigations are being pursued under the National Crime Agency’s auspices, and Barnardo’s has appointed a team of specialist experts to work with vulnerable children in a £3m initiative, trust is so fragile that only a small fraction of the victims have had the courage to come forward according to David Greenwood, one of the lawyers representing those who have been raped, trafficked, groomed and systematically attacked.

Until there is a culture in place that allows girls to come forward, and provide evidence that will enable the perpetrators of this appalling abuse to be prosecuted, Rotherham will not be able to move on from this scandal of all scandals.

On top of the world: Jessica Ennis-Hill is a golden wonder

FEW stories in sport have been as heartwarming as the inspirational heptathlete Jessica Ennis-Hill becoming world champion just a year after giving birth to her son Reggie. This was one of the great sporting comebacks as Sheffield’s superstar rediscovered the form which saw her capture the nation’s hearts at the 2012 Olympics.

It does not end here. Ennis-Hill actually suffered the heartbreak of missing the 2008 Olympics in Beijing’s Birds Nest stadium, scene of yesterday’s triumph, because of injury and she has also had to come to terms with the controversial closure of training facilities in her home city.

But it was also a reaffirmation that the 29-year-old all rounder is not only one of the all-time greats of British sport because of her guts and determination, two characteristics which go to the very core of Yorkshire’s DNA, but she’s determined to restore the reputation of her tarnished sport – she was deprived a deserved world title in 2011 by Tatyana Chernova who was subsequently found guilty of doping.

As Sheffield’s Seb Coe begins the race of his life as the new head of global athletics, his task is made slightly easier by the success of Ennis-Hill and the talismanic Usain Bolt who recorded the most significant win of his career when winning the blue riband 100 metres from serial drugs cheat Justin Gatlin by a hundreth of a second. Athletics was that close to losing all credibility.

Drinking dilemma: is Britain a nation of alcoholics?

FIRST it was young people who were accused of putting the NHS under an intolerable strain because of binge drinking. Now the alcohol intake of the over-65s, the one-time ‘baby boomer’ generation, have reached intolerable and dangerous levels according to new research.

These contradictions, backed up once again by an impassioned appeal for doctors to do more to persuade their patients not to abuse their livers with cheap wine purchased from supermarkets, still leave unanswered the most pertinent question of all – why do people in Britain appear to drink more than their counterparts in Europe? And could it actually be that the seemingly daily lectures from the so-called ‘nanny state’ is actually driving people to drink because they’re fed up at being told how to lead to their lives? It’s one to contemplate – over a soft drink, of course.