Socialist Worker

Authorities ‘let abusers continue’ in Rotherham

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2453

A street in Rotherham, one of the South Yorkshire towns hit by the child sex abuse scandal

A street in Rotherham, the South Yorkshire town at the centre of the child sex abuse scandal (Pic: Guy Smallman )

Newly revealed reports expose how police failed to protect children from abuse in South Yorkshire.

Dr Angie Heal produced the reports in 2003 and 2006 when working as a drugs analyst with South Yorkshire Police.

In 2003 Heal reported “significant abuse” mainly affecting girls and young women.

She exposed links between child sexual exploitation (CSE), drug crime and violence in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.

Some of Heal’s findings led to widespread shock when Professor Alexis Jay’s report into CSE in Rotherham repeated them 11 years later.

One girl was doused in petrol to deter her from reporting abuse. Abusers took a 12 year old girl to a hotel and made her watch them have sex with her 14 year old sister.

The abuse in Rotherham was “very organised” and involved “systematic physical and sexual violence”. Perpetrators were “usually well known” to the authorities.

Yet police failed to tackle abuse even when victims came forward.

One 18 year old woman reported a rape to police and was arrested for theft. No one asked why she had gone to the police station.


Heal said victims were “often seen as bringing the situation on themselves”. Some officers described victims in derogatory language. Such attitudes allowed abusers to “carry on with impunity”.

Heal’s 2003 report noted “professional men known to have sex with women involved in prostitution”. These included a local councillor and off duty police officers.

“Another young woman who works in a red light area said she had sex with a police officer,” wrote Heal. “He was in a patrol car in full uniform at the time.”

A 15 year old girl was charged with prostitution after police discovered her performing a sex act in a car. In a horrifying twist, “The magistrate who convicted her was the very man who had paid her to have sex with him,” Heal wrote.

Much recent reporting of CSE has focused on abusers’ ethnicity.

Heal said the main groups of perpetrators of organised CSE in Rotherham were Asian. She said some workers in Rotherham believed this stopped CSE being effectively dealt with.

But there was no evidence to back up this theory in her reports.Heal added, “Perpetrators and paedophiles come from a number of different ethnic groups in the town”.

She said Asian abusers “are a handful of men from sizeable communities of which the vast majority are law abiding citizens”.

Heal referred to Keighley, West Yorkshire, where mainstream media focused on Asian men abusing girls. “Police, social services, community leaders and mothers of girls who are being exploited say race is not the issue,” she said. “Other groups including whites are involved.”

Heal added that Asian, black and eastern European girls were “undoubtedly” being exploited too but this was “much more hidden”.


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