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Sep 24, 2012

Asian sex gangs operated for a decade in Rotherham as authorities refused to acknowledge the problem, chilling police files reveal

  • Documents reveal scale of sexual exploitation of girls in South Yorkshire
  • Vulnerable white girl, known to have been abused from the age of 12, was offered Urdu and Punjabi lessons by Rotherham Council to 'educate her'
  • Papers reveal catalogue of alleged crimes which have not been prosecuted
  • Rotherham MP Denis MacShane: 'We need clear leadership from government to eradicate this evil'

By Rob Preece

|

Asian sex gangs were able to groom, pimp and traffic girls across the UK for more than a decade while authorities failed to publicly acknowledge the problem was happening, confidential documents reveal today.

A dossier of internal police, social services and intelligence reports shows that agencies in South Yorkshire were aware that vulnerable girls were being abused, but a catalogue of alleged crimes were not prosecuted.

In one case, a white girl who was sexually abused by an Asian gang from the age of 12 was offered lessons in Urdu and Punjabi by her local council after her ordeal.

Victim: A vulnerable white girl who was sexually abused by an Asian gang was offered lessons in Urdu and Punjabi after her ordeal. (Picture posed by model)

Victim: A vulnerable white girl who was sexually abused by an Asian gang was offered lessons in Urdu and Punjabi after her ordeal. (Picture posed by model)

Rotherham Council proposed the lessons to the girl, who was known by social services to have been sexually exploited, in an attempt 'to engage' her in education.

The documents show that authorities were aware of a problem of offenders, largely men of Pakistani heritage, sexually exploiting vulnerable girls, but never publicly acknowledged that it was happening.

A child welfare expert, speaking under condition of anonymity, said the agencies' reluctance to tackle street-grooming networks was 'the biggest child protection scandal of our time'.

The papers, whcih emerged today outline many cases of alleged sexual exploitation for which no one was prosecuted, including:

  • Fifty-four children from Rotherham were linked to sexual exploitation by three brothers from a British Pakistani family. Eighteen girls identified one brother as their 'boyfriend'. He allegedly made several of them pregnant.
  • An intelligence report for police identified 61 girls who were linked to sexual exploitation by three brothers from another British Pakistani family. It named 41 of the brothers' associates, who allegedly used girls for sex.
  • A 14-year-old girl was allegedly held in a flat and forced to perform sex acts on four Pakistani men and an Iraqi Kurd asylum seeker. She was interviewed by police on camera and identified her alleged abusers.
  • A 15-year-old girl spent days in hospital after a broken bottle was allegedly forced inside her by two young men in a park.
  • After neighbours heard screaming, a 13-year-old girl was found at 3am in a house with a large group of men who had given her vodka. Police arrested the child for being drunk and disorderly but did not question the men.
Problem: Confidential documents have revealed the scale of sexual exploitation of young white girls in Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Problem: Confidential documents have revealed the scale of sexual exploitation of young white girls in Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Among the papers is a confidential 2010 police intelligence report warning that thousands of sexual exploitation crimes are committed in South Yorkshire each year.

'Possibly the most shocking threat is the existence of substantial and organised offender networks that groom and exploit victims on a worrying scale,' the report states. 'Practitioners throughout the force state there is a problem with networks of Asian offenders both locally and nationally.

 

'This was particularly stressed in Sheffield and even more so in Rotherham, where there appears to be a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females.'

The report, seen by The Times, states that such groups are believed to have trafficked victims to other cities and towns, including Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Bradford and Dover.

Another confidential 2010 report, for the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board, warns against drawing too much attention to the ethnic origin of the alleged abusers.

It states: 'Great care will be taken in drafting...this report to ensure that its findings embrace Rotherham's qualities of diversity. It is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided.'

The documents indicate that sexual exploitation of young girls has been a long-running problem in South Yorkshire.

Ashtiaq Asghar was jailed for the murder of Laura Wilson
Murder victim Laura Wilson

Killing: Ashtiaq Asghar (left) murdered Rotherham mother Laura Wilson, 17, (right) for bringing shame on the families of two men who had used her for sex

It is understood that, as long ago as 1996, a social services investigation in Rotherham found concerns that girls at residential care homes were being forced into 'child prostiution' by a small group of men.

Two years later, as many as 70 girls from the town were said to be involved.

More than a decade passed before police in Rotherham mounted their first major investigation into a grooming network in the town.

Comments: Former Home Secretary Jack Straw sparked controversy in January 2011 when he suggested that some Pakistani men saw white girls as 'easy meat' for sexual abuse

Comments: Former Home Secretary Jack Straw sparked controversy in January 2011 when he suggested that some Pakistani men saw white girls as 'easy meat' for sexual abuse

In 2010 five men were given jail sentences totalling 32 years after being found guilty of a range of sexual offences.

During a trial at Sheffield Crown Court, jurors heard how the men developed relationships with three teenage girls, having sex with them in cars and parks in the Rotherham area.

The girls believed they were in relationships with the much older men.

Rotherham MP Denis MacShane said: ‘The sexual violation and commercial exploitation of young girls by older men is a growing problem and needs far more public policy attention.

'The Rotherham police exposed, arrested and broke up an evil gang of internal traffickers who were sent to prison.

'But it is clear that the internal trafficking of barely pubescent girls is much more widespread and I regret that the police did not tell Yorkshire MPs about their inquiries. 

'We need clear leadership from government to eradicate this evil.'

The problem rose to prominence in January last year after former Home Secretary accused some Pakistani men of seeing white girls as 'easy meat' for sexual abuse.

He said at the time: 'There is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.

'We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.'

Documents: South Yorkshire Police headquarters in Sheffield. Details of the problem of sexual exploitation are revealed in internal reports prepared by the force

Documents: South Yorkshire Police headquarters in Sheffield. Details of the problem of sexual exploitation are revealed in internal reports prepared by the force

He added: 'These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

'So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat.

CHILLING ECHOES OF ABUSE BY SEX GANG IN ROCHDALE

Shabir Ahmed

The revelations about sexual exploitation in Rotherham echo the activities of a street-grooming gang which preyed on dozens of young girls in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

Nine members of the group, including ringleader Shabir Ahmed, 59, were jailed for a total of 77 years by a judge at Liverpool Crown Court in May.

An 11-week trial heard that the men would target vulnerable teenage girls and pass them around for sex.

If the girls did not submit, they were plied with cheap vodka and raped.

It emerged during the trial that police and social services had missed opportunities to stop the abuse.

Ahmed, pictured above, was jailed for 19 years for his role in the street-grooming ring.

In August he was given a separate 22-year prison term, to run concurrently with the first, after he was convicted of raping another child in his community.

Earlier this month, Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board announced that a serious case review into the exploitation would be held.

The board's chairman Lynne Jones told the BBC that the review would look at the experiences of four young people and how agencies responded to their needs.

The review would focus on what help was available to the girls in the early stages of their ordeal and how reports of concern about the victims were handled.

'And because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped.'

The revelations come only three months after it emerged that social services in Rotherham had known for six years that a teenage mother, murdered for bringing shame on the families of two men who had used her for sex, was at clear risk from predatory gangs.

Laura Wilson, 17, had been groomed by a string of men before she was stabbed and thrown into a canal to die for informing her abusers' families of the sexual relationships.

Her killer Ashtiaq Asghar, who was 18 at the time, was given a life sentence and will serve a minimum of 17-and-a-half years after he pleaded guilty to murdering Laura in October 2010.

But it emerged in June that Rotherham Council's social services were well aware she was at risk and had received information about certain adults suspected of targeting her from the age of 11.

A serious case review report confirmed that Laura had dealings with 15 agencies and identified 'numerous missed opportunities' to protect her.

It stated that she eventually became 'almost invisible' to care professional.

Rotherham Council's Cabinet member for services for children, young people and families, Councillor Paul Lakin, said: 'There is no question that we will do whatever we can to protect our young people from harm in whatever form that threat takes.

'The Council has already acknowledged publicly that there have been lessons learnt from previous work, cases and investigations and that the support offered to a small number of vulnerable young people has not always reached the high standards we always look to provide.

'From that learning, improvements have been made and new services introduced and those developments will continue.

'Following the recommendations from a serious case review, inspections and our own learning on other cases, the sexual exploitation team has recently evolved from the original youth service
project into the new multi-agency service to improve preventative and support work along with boosting efforts to investigate cases and bring people to justice.

'We are also maintaining our major investment in protecting children at a time when public sector budgets are under increasing pressure.

'We have pledged our commitment by prioritising the amount of money being put into safeguarding services along with prevention and early help work with families to help ensure they get the support they need.

'Sexual predators do come from different sections of the community and are criminals who need to be brought to justice regardless of their background.

'We have worked closely with communities and community leaders across Rotherham in recent years to enlist their support in helping to tackle some of these issues and to educate people about sexual exploitation.

'The response has been very positive and our commitment to continue to tackle this issue is shared by local agencies and our communities.'

South Yorkshire Police are yet to comment on the documents.

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Posted: Monday September 24, 2012, 9:01 am
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