February 9: Counting cost of Rotherham

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FAR from marking the end of a shameful chapter that has exposed the shocking culture of denial and lack of action that allowed gangs of Asian men to groom and sexually abuse young girls, the fallout from the Rotherham scandal merely marks the beginning.

For now the challenge – and it is an onerous one – is to provide the help and support required not only by the victims of Rotherham, but all those who have come forward in its wake.

Children’s charity Barnardo’s says that high-profile scandals including that which has engulfed the South Yorkshire town have resulted in an “unprecedented demand” for its services. A record 2,118 child sexual exploitation victims were supported by the charity last year, calling into question its financial ability to cope.

There are two important points to make.

The first is that the only crumb of comfort that can be taken from the exposure of abuse on such a harrowing scale is that it has encouraged others to come forward and share their own experiences rather than continue to suffer in silence.

The second is that the level of betrayal of vulnerable youngsters perpetrated by those officials paid to ensure their wellbeing is only now becoming fully apparent. Having been failed once, it is now paramount that work to ensure such an abdication of responsibilty is never repeated is combined with a concerted effort to reach out to, and support, all those who have suffered at the hands of abusers.

That means the Government, and others, recognising that in this time of exceptional demand, denying them such succour due to funding constraints would amount to a second heinous betrayal.

Prince has a point

THERE are many who subscribe to the view that as next in line to the throne, Prince Charles should not comment on political matters. One of the notable exceptions, however, is the Prince himself. And thank goodness for that.

His decision to make public his concerns over the radicalisation of young British Muslims should be applauded for its honesty and willingness to cut through the politically correct nonsense that stymies any serious discussion of this alarming trend.

The Prince’s view that some people who live in Britain fail to subscribe to its values may have garnered some criticism, but most right-thinking people will welcome the fact that he has given expression to a sentiment shared by the majority of the public but not voiced by politicians for fear of being labelled racist.

Of course, it is nothing of the sort. Indeed, the Prince’s thoughtful response to an issue that is becoming increasingly important as a result of the rise of the so-called Islamic State was swiftly backed by the Muslim Council of Britain.

A man with strong views on faith and the protection of British values, at the heart of the Prince’s discourse was the common sense call for religions to communicate better with one another and build bridges between them.

Also salient was his identification of the danger posed by Islamic State in terms of attracting young British Muslims to their cause with the lure of a false sense of excitement and adventure dispensed via propaganda that is merely a few mouse clicks away.

Given the reticence of our politicians to give voice to such concerns, which are felt in so many households both in Yorkshire and across the country, there is an argument for Prince Charles speaking out more often on political matters rather than less.

Magical McCoy: A superhuman sporting icon

IT is not often that Catterick, a North Yorkshire garrison town, hosts a sporting icon who is spoken about with the same reverence as the likes of Muhammad Ali, Pelé and Sir Don Bradman. Yet today’s race meeting, on a mundane Monday in the cold chill of winter, will allow horse racing devotees to pay homage to the one and only AP McCoy after the record-breaker announced his intention to retire.

He is a one-off whose phenomenal consistency, and resilience in the face of history, has set new benchmarks of excellence for all sport. The numbers speak for themselves – McCoy will bow out at the top after being champion jump jockey for 20 successive seasons and winning more than 4,300 contests. He treats every race as a Gold Cup or Grand National. Unnaturally tall for a rider, the magical McCoy has set phenomenal records which will never be beaten. He should be appreciated while there is still a chance to watch this sporting freak of nature.