Hidden in Plain Sight – How 1400 Children were Exploited over 16 Years


It's now out in the open, but far too late. Mass child abuse and exploitation in Rotherham has been uncovered. The abuse has gone on for 16 years in the South Yorkshire town, and it's painfully clear that it had been taking place on a massive scale.

Children with backs to us under a grey sky depicting abuse

So how did the offenders hide in plain sight for so long?

2010 – A Trial that was the tip of the Iceberg

In 2010, 8 men were tried, with 5 convicted, in Sheffield Crown Court for sex offences that took place in Rotherham. After this, coverage and interest seemed to dwindle.

However, The Times carried out a series of investigations in 2012 and discovered that the 2010 trial was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of sexual exploitation in Rotherham. This then sparked Westminster involvement, through the Home Affairs Select Committee and ultimately the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, which published its initial report this year.

The findings in the initial report include:

  • A lack of communication between child protection services and the elected members of Rotherham Borough Council
  • A lack of understanding, and seemingly interest, in grooming as a form of child exploitation
  • The processes and procedures put in place to prevent and detect exploitation were inadequate
  • Frontline workers experiences, and the experiences of the victims themselves, went unheard
  • There was a perception of a 'macho and bullying' culture that existed in the Council until 2009, and that this dampened the ability for child sexual exploitation to be properly discussed
  • There were artificial 'professional barriers' and also 'professional jealousies' between organisations
  • Denial that such events could happen in Rotherham
  • Because of the ethnicity of the perpetrators, there were concerns that public knowledge of the offences would cause racial tensions
  • Reports commissioned and made available to the council and the police seem to have not been used appropriately

What can be Done?

Lessons can be learnt from this whole scandal among the police, the council and specifically child protective services. While the scale of the abuse in Rotherham is massive, the causes aren't uncommon. Similar to the problems in child protective services in the Midlands over the deaths of children like Daniel Pelka and Khyra Ishaq, a lack of communication between different departments and organisations was cited. On top of this, the culture of the organisation was criticised in all these instances.

If a victim wanted to seek redress for the horrific things that happened to them, they may be able to consider a claim against the council. If a victim is known to social services, or even stayed in a children's home, the council and social services have a duty to make sure they don't suffer any 'reasonable harm'.

It seems quite obvious that if the council stood aside and let this happen, knowing full well what was going on, that duty has been breached.

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