June 25: Belated justice in Rotherham: New hope for 1,400 abuse victims

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THIS WILL, inevitably, be another difficult week for Rotherham after the National Crime Agency confirmed that it was investigating 300 suspects – and pursuing more than 3,300 lines of enquiry – into the sex grooming scandal by gangs of predominantly Pakistani origin and which continues to besmirch the scandal-hit borough’s reputation.

Yet, while much of the focus has been on the litany of inexcusable police and political failings since Professor Alexis Jay’s devastating report a year ago which revealed that nearly 1,400 young girls had been sexually abused over a 16-year period, this revelation does offer tangible hope that the perpetrators of this human misery will, belatedly, be bought to justice. As Trevor Pearce, the officer in charge, admitted: “For a large number of young girls I think it’s fair to say their lives have been stolen. The dreams or views that you have got when you’re 13 – that has not happened.”

It will not be easy. The NCA still needs to obtain evidence that will be credible in a court of law – and some of the allegations date back nearly two decades. Yet new evidence is coming to light and Mr Peace’s team now has in its possession nearly 100 boxes of written material from, amongst others, Rotherham Council’s Risky Business youth project that worked with young people at risk of abuse.

Given many of the procedural inquiries were told that crucial documentation was, in fact, missing, these discoveries make a mockery of previous inquiries and the need for the officers responsible to be held to account for their inaction. In the meantime, the NCA needs the time and the resources to complete its onerous task – the public interest, and the plight of those victims whose cries for help were ignored for too long, demands nothing less. For, until this inquiry is concluded, Rotherham will remain haunted by its shameful past.

Doctor’s orders

Waking up to sleep deprivation

THE British Medical Association’s concerns about the workloads of hospital consultants, and potentially dangerous levels of fatigue, needs to be placed in wider context. Senior doctors expect to work long hours and realise that complex operations – and emergency cases – cannot be timed to suit the convenience of shift patterns; these are an occupational hazard.

Equally, it would be remiss of the Government to ignore concerns about burnout, and the impact on patients, when consultants do have to work extended shifts, particularly at weekends. As the BMA’s spokesman, Dr Paul Flynn, said so forcefully: “We would never allow a consultant under the influence of alcohol to treat patients, but continue to turn a blind eye to doctors who are sleep deprived.”

As Ministers look to introduce a 24/7 NHS in order to reduce the disparity between the care that patients receive during the week – and their treatment at weekends when fewer staff are on duty – this policy simply will not work unless there are sufficient consultants, doctors and nurses in order to meet the Government’s raised expectations. Safety must come first at all times.

Given the length of time that it takes to train new medical recruits, the Government – and patients – will have to accept that there will be an increasingly reliance on staff from overseas for the foreseeable future and forthcoming changes to immigration laws need to reflect this.

Furthermore, the BMA’s report is another reminder about the importance of GP out-of-hours cover in local communities so hospitals do not come under so much pressure in the first place.

A new lease of life

Historic mills are key to future

ICONIC buildings like Salts Mill, now home to an exhibition of David Hockney’s priceless works of art and a number of thriving businesses, is testament to the reinvention of those magnificent structures that powered the Industrial Revolution.

Like Dean Clough Mills in Halifax, another historic building that has had to move with the times in order to avoid falling into rack and ruin, 21st century innovators are breathing new life into those former mills which remain so emblematic of the region’s landscape.

By leading by example, these ventures give added impetus to Historic England’s newly-commissioned study into the future of redundant textile mills – and what more can be done to convert these landmark sites into thriving business ventures with the potential to create a new generation of jobs in areas that have been traditionally home to above-average unemployment. In this respect, the past still holds the key to the future.