THERE was some good news this week when six of the vile monsters behind the Rotherham child abuse scandal were convicted for their crimes. They will be sentenced later today.
Some of the victims were in Sheffield Crown Court to hear the jury’s verdict and see their tormenters finally face justice, after years of being ignored or branded as liars by the authorities.
But before we hang out the bunting it is worth remembering that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A 2014 report by Professor Alexis Jay made it clear that Rotherham’s child rape gangs had acted with impunity for decades and there is likely to be in the region of 1,400 victims in this one Yorkshire town alone.
By that reckoning there must be dozens – if not hundreds – of offenders walking free today.
And let us also not forget that significant figures – not least police officers and social workers who actively colluded in the abuse – were missing from their rightful place in the dock of the court.
Disgusting though the details of the crimes undoubtedly are, even more shocking is that those in authority who were supposed to protect vulnerable children actually went out of their way to assist the rapists and cover up their crimes. Two South Yorkshire police officers were named in court as being involved in the abuse and employees of the local authority were alleged to have handed over girls who were supposed to be in their care to ruthless pimps.
Children as young as 11-years-old were groomed, plied with alcohol and drugs, beaten and burned, gang raped and forced to work as prostitutes.
One young girl was told by an abuser that he had a shovel in the boot of his car and she would be forced to dig her own grave unless she did his bidding.
How in heaven’s name did all this happen in plain sight? The answer, I am afraid, points to deep corruption of our public sector.
The perpetrators were predominantly Muslims of Pakistani heritage. Through their connections with the local Labour party and the council, they thought they were untouchable – and they were right.
Police officers and social workers were so terrified of being branded “Islamophobic” that they were prepared to turn a blind eye to the abuse of very young white girls and cover up the crimes. And the old excuse – “We had no idea this was happening!” – simply doesn’t hold water.
Back in 2002, Home Office researcher Adele Gladman blew the whistle on the scandal and provided South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council with specific details of the names of offenders and victims, methods, locations and car registrations.
She was vilified and the council suppressed her report and tried to sack her for gross misconduct. Files were stolen from her office and fake minutes of meetings that never happened added to her computer.
When she pointed out that the gangs consisted of Pakistani-heritage Muslims, she was admonished and forced to attend “racial awareness training”.
On two separate occasions she was threatened by officers from South Yorkshire Police, she says. On one occasion, an officer told her it would be a “shame” if the rape gangs were given her home address.
This week it was revealed that the Independent Police Complaints Commission has begun 55 investigations into alleged police misconduct in South Yorkshire. It has received complaints against 92 named officers.
In addition, the National Crime Agency has identified more than 300 child abuse suspects and 9,000 lines of enquiry.
Just because six people have been convicted it doesn’t mean the stink hanging over Rotherham has been dissipated. The rapists and their enablers in the council, the Labour party and the police force must face the full force of the law.
And it is worth pointing the role of press in the Rotherham story.
Journalists – led by former The Yorkshire Post reporter Andrew Norfolk who is now with The Times – were the only people who actually listened to what the girls were saying. They then patiently built up overwhelming evidence of what was going on – in the face of desperate cover-up attempts by the authorities.
Got that? Without a free and unfettered press this scandal would never have come to light. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Lord Justice Leveson.