Rotherham abuse scandal: Six reports into 'blatant' council failures and alleged thefts to be published

Six reports exploring the 'blatant' failures by senior figures at Rotherham Council over the town's child abuse scandal - and alleged attempts to cover up what was happening - are to be published this afternoon.

Professor Alexis Jay's 2014 report revealed the extent of Rotherham's child abuse scandal.
Professor Alexis Jay's 2014 report revealed the extent of Rotherham's child abuse scandal.

Independent investigations have been conducted over the past three years into a series of issues relating to the child sexual exploitation scandal, in which an estimated 1,400 victims were abused over a 16-year period in the town - largely by men of a Pakistani-heritage background.

Each of the reports are to be discussed during a meeting at Rotherham Town Hall at 2pm and will be made public at the same time.

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The investigations are into issues raised by reports by Professor Alexis Jay and Dame Louise Casey in 2014 and 2015. The first report examines the conduct of senior council employees between 1997 and 2015.

Professor Jay’s report said: “Over the first twelve years covered by this inquiry, the collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant.

“Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers.

“Some at a senior level in the police and children’s social care continued to think the extent of the problem, as described by youth workers, was exaggerated, and seemed intent on reducing the official numbers of children categorised as CSE.

“Seminars for elected members and senior officers in 2004/05 presented the abuse in the most explicit terms. After these events, nobody could say ‘we didn’t know’.”

Professor Jay added: “By far the majority of perpetrators were described as ‘Asian’ by victims, yet throughout the entire period, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how best they could jointly address the issue. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”

A follow-up report by Louise Casey in February 2015, which resulted in the Government appointing commissioners to take over the running of the authority, found “a council in denial”.

“Both today and in the past, Rotherham has at times taken more care of its reputation than it has its of its most needy,” she said.

“Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only to not act, but to close that service down.”

The second report is a review of 15 case studies contained in Professor Jay’s report which laid out how police and social workers “completely failed” abused children. In one case, a 12-year-old girl found in a derelict house with another child and a group of adult males was herself arrested for being drunk and disorderly while the men were allowed to go. The incident occurred less than a month after the child was assessed as being at no risk of sexual exploitation.

The third report relates to an incident described to MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee in which key child abuse files belonging to a researcher who was investigating the activities of grooming gangs in the town were allegedly stolen from a locked council office in 2002.

The select committee said in 2014 that the theft of the files – as well as reports of other key Rotherham child abuse documents going missing – meant that an investigation was needed due to “public suspicion of a deliberate cover-up”.

The fourth report relates to missing minutes of meetings relating to child protection cases between the late 1990s and 2003/04. Professor Jay said in 2014 that four years of minutes of meetings between children’s social care teams, the police and the health service about exploitation issues had disappeared.

The fifth report is focused on the theft of 21 laptops from Rotherham Council’s Norfolk House offices on the night of October 26, 2011. One of the laptops held details about an ongoing police investigation into alleged child sexual exploitation offences in the town involving taxi drivers. That laptop contained details about suspected abusers and victims, including details of dates of birth and home addresses.

But council bosses and South Yorkshire Police did not inform those whose information had been stolen – on the grounds it would cause them “unnecessary anxiety”.

The final report examines taxi licensing and enforcement in the town between 2010 and the present day.

Professor Jay highlighted the “prominent role of taxi drivers in being directly linked to children who were abused” in her report, while Louise Casey said there had been “corporate failure” in powers not being used to tackle links between child sexual exploitation and the taxi trade, with licensing officers “unable or indeed uninterested in gripping the issue”.

A spokesman for Rotherham Council said: “It is the council’s intention that these reports will be published in an open and transparent manner, as far as is possible and permissible by law.”