Rotherham is starting to heal in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal despite far-right extremists’ continuing attempts to stir up racial divisions, according to the South Yorkshire town’s council leader.
Councillor Chris Read spoke days after six members of the latest grooming ring to operate in Rotherham were jailed for a total of more than 80 years for sexually abusing two young girls between 1999 and 2001.
And today The Yorkshire Post can reveal there are more than 100 active investigations into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the town.
Coun Read, the leader of Rotherham Council, has spoken of how the town has recovered in the wake of the scandal that thrust it into the headlines.
Two years after an independent report deemed the authority to be “not fit for purpose”, he described how lessons had been learned and public confidence was being restored. He said: “The last two years have been a healing process.
“It was a huge shock for the community.
We couldn’t believe something of this scale or magnitude could happen in Rotherham.Chris Read, leader of Rotherham council
“We couldn’t believe something of this scale or magnitude could happen in Rotherham.
“The situation has certainly improved, but there’s always more to do.”
Rotherham found itself at the centre of a national scandal after a report by Professor Alexis Jay, published in 2014, revealed the shocking scale of child grooming in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, with 1,400 children abused as local authorities failed to tackle the problem.
The grooming gangs were mostly made up of Asian men, a fact which sparked racial tension in the town. And while it is now finding its feet, Coun Read said there had been a “significant” rise in hate crime and far-right groups still marching through the streets.
He said: “We have this recurring issue where we are seeing far-right groups turning up and demonstrating. They are using what has happened to meet their agenda.”
Coun Read said the groups had protested in Rotherham 16 times over the last two years, with an English Defence League march mooted for later this month.
He said: “It causes an unsettling environment in a community that is trying to pull together.”
Rotherham has completely rebuilt the way it deals with CSE and Coun Read said he had noticed a major shift from street grooming gangs to online abuse.