THE CHIEF Constable of South Yorkshire Police has revealed officers could face disciplinary action over the Rotherham child exploitation scandal as attempts are intensified to prevent more youngsters falling victim to sexual predators in the town.
Chief Constable David Crompton has raised the prospect of taking action against officers who failed to intervene as teenage girls were abused, though most of those involved are thought to have left the force.
His announcement came as it emerged every taxi driver in Rotherham will be trained in child safeguarding as a result of abuse concerns. Calls for a new focus on the taxi industry were made earlier this week after a report by Professor Alexis Jay revealed the authorities in Rotherham turned a blind eye to claims that cabbies were abusing young and teenage girls for more than a decade.
Rotherham Council has confirmed it will insist every taxi driver, even those never accused of any wrong-doing, is trained in child safety, with any new licence only being awarded after training is undertaken.
Mr Crompton said: “The report into CSE (child sex exploitation) in Rotherham laid bare the failings of South Yorkshire Police over a number of years. This made for painful reading, however I am determined that we will use the findings of the report to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
“With this in mind I have written to Professor Jay to request a meeting, which will allow us to fully understand her detailed findings and properly address any concerns both past and present. Of the four officers named in the report, just one, Richard Tweed, remains with the Force. His position in Rotherham started in 2010, the year which the report states the improvements began.
“As a result of the release of the report we have begun to see a number of new reports about child sexual exploitation. I interpret this as a sign of confidence amongst victims that the force, as it stands now, will take these matters seriously and investigate them fully.”
The safeguarding concerns come as the South Yorkshire Police’s ex-Chief Constable Michael Hedges admitted “regret” over how abuse allegations were handled, and added: “It would be wrong to say I have no regrets because whether I like it or not, I was there as chief constable from 1998 - 2004 and things were going on of which I was not aware. Had I have been aware of them, then I would have had action taken, which may have prevented some of these people becoming victims.”
In Rotherham, police are also investigating incidents in which limousine drivers were suspected of waiting outside schools to pick up girls. The report into abuse of 1,400 girls said “the use of limousines for purposes of sexual exploitation was raised by a number of people as a historic and current issue. In Rotherham, they have recently been seen waiting for young girls outside school gates”.
The Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, said: “The news of safeguarding failures linked to taxis transporting vulnerable children is both shocking and bewildering. It is vital that the local authority look into this as a matter of urgency.”
South Yorkshire police commissioner Shaun Wright has resisted calls to resign from the post after being Rotherham Council’s head of children’s services. Warwickshire police commissioner Ron Ball claimed Mr Wright was doing “irreparable damage to both his own reputation and that of police commissioners.”
Meanwhile, a prominent Asian businesswoman has said a “shame culture” within families and communities means many sexual abuse victims often suffer in silence.
Ruzwana Bashir, chief executive of upmarket travel site Peek.com, has spoken out about her own ordeal at the hands of an unnamed abuser in her home town of Skipton, North Yorkshire, in the wake of the Rotherham child exploitation scandal.
Senior officials from Rotherham Council face questioning from MPs about the scandal, while South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton has admitted Professor Alexis Jay’s report into the abuse of 1,600 children over 16 had “laid bare the failings” of his force.
Today the Harvard Business School graduate told the Guardian a neighbour began abusing her when she was just 10 but she stayed quiet, “paralysed by shame”.
At 18 she left for Oxford University, becoming president of the Oxford Union, and then went to Harvard, only feeling able to open up to her mother after 10 years away from where she grew up.
The British-Pakistani told the paper: “When I first told my mother about the abuse, she was devastated. The root of her anger was clear: I was heaping shame on my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and my siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police.”
But Ms Bashir did report it to the police and another victim, a man named in the article as Sohail, who had been abused 20 years before her, came forward as a result of the police investigation, leading to their tormentor being jailed.
“Although Sohail and I had removed a proven paedophile from the community and helped empower another woman to end her torture, we were not celebrated. We were shunned,” she said.
“The Rotherham report cites a home affairs select committee finding that cases of Asian men grooming Asian girls did not come to light in Rotherham because victims ‘are often alienated and ostracised by their own families and by the whole community, if they go public with allegations of abuse’. This was our experience - and the experience of everyone I’ve since spoken to.”
She added it was not an issue confined to any one particular race, religion or part of the country and called for authorities to do more to protect the vulnerable, including better training for social workers and mandatory reporting by professionals such as teachers and doctors.