How Rotherham Became Synonymous With The Exploitation Of Teenage Girls

The town of Rotherham, still reeling from the child exploitation scandal that engulfed the area 18 months ago, has seen another grooming gang successfully prosecuted.

After the convictions of the Hussain brothers and their associates, Rotherham has once again become a byword for the exploitation of teenage girls  and the failure of police and social workers to stop it happening.

Professor Alexis Jay said in the Jay Report in August 2014 that she had found “utterly appalling” examples of “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone’’.

Her report shocked the nation - partly due to the scale of exploitation it described, finding that at least 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked and groomed in the town over a 16-year period.

However, its impact was so far reaching because it also laid bare the extend to which police and council officials failed to act on what they knew.

It explicitly questioned whether this neglect was related to the perpetrators largely being adult men of a Pakistani heritage.

Prosecuted: (from the left) Arshid Hussain, Basharat Hussain and Banners Hussain (PA)

Although the Jay Report resulted in the Rotherham exploitation becoming a national scandal, it was the previous major prosecution of a grooming gang in the town that kick-started this process.

In 2010, five men - Umar Razaq, Razwan Razaq, Zafran Ramzan, Adil Hussain, Mohsin Khan - were found guilty of a string of sex offences against girls aged between 12 and 16.

This case provoked some media attention but did not gain nationwide coverage.

But it was followed by a growing number of prosecutions of a similar nature around the UK, including in Derby, Oxford and Rochdale.

The Times reporter Andrew Norfolk exposed a pattern of mainly white teenage girls being groomed by gangs of adult men of a Pakistani heritage.

When Mr Norfolk began to disclose in detail the stories of girls who had been exploited in Rotherham, it started a chain of events that led to Rotherham Council asking Professor Jay to look into what was happening.

Waves of criticism followed, aimed mainly at Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police, while resignations included the leader and chief executive of the council as well as its director of children’s services.

The most high-profile casualty was South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, who was the councillor in charge of Rotherham’s children’s services between 2005 and 2010.

Convictions: Karen MacGregor, 58, (left) and Shelley Davies, 40 (PA)

A further review of Rotherham Council by the Government’s Troubled Families chief, Louise Casey, heaped more criticism on an authority she labelled as "not fit for purpose” and “in denial”.

Communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles handing over its powers to a panel of appointed commissioners as a result.

South Yorkshire Police says it now has a team of more than 60 officers working on child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Its joint operation with the council and Crown Prosecution Service - Operation Clover - has resulted in the current prosecution and others currently moving through the criminal justice system.

The National Crime Agency has also been brought in to investigate historical crimes and last year announced it was looking at 300 potential suspects.

The police and the NCA have said that successful prosecutions are the key to building trust with the survivors of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

But last year David Greenwood, a lawyer who represents 58 women who were subjected to sexual abuse by gangs of men in Rotherham between 1996 and 2012, said he was aware of fewer than 100 victims who had come forward.

Top pic: Rex