A corrupt police officer was among those refusing to tackle child abuse in Rotherham, a new book has revealed.
Jayne Senior worked for Risky Business, a service that supported children at risk of abuse in the South Yorkshire town. Her book, Broken and Betrayed, describes years of police failings—and suggests a cover up of the abuse (see below).
Jayne told Socialist Worker that she was “not at all” surprised by evidence of police corruption that emerged in a recent abuse trial.
“I don’t think anybody in the police or the council would have been shocked,” she added.
The book details how Risky Business gave South Yorkshire Police (SYP) a mountain of evidence over many years. But “we were constantly told by senior officers that it was ‘hearsay’,” she said.
She wrote, “I was angry not only at the abusers, but the system. The system was stacked against victims.”
One victim, Debbie, told her about a “corrupt police officer” in the area. Jayne wrote, “It seemed he was raiding houses of known heroin dealers and confiscating their supplies but only handing part of this in.
“The rest he would give to Debbie. She could have a portion of it for personal use as long as she sold the remainder and handed him the profits.”
Another victim, Jessica, was being abused by a man ten years older than her. “She claimed that on several occasions officers would warn him to lie low because he was ‘being looked at’.”
Jayne wrote that there is a “cultural” problem with the way some men view girls. But she also said the problems go much deeper.
“We still seem to treat women of all backgrounds as second-class citizens and sexual objects,” she wrote.
“There seemed to be an attitude, particularly among some police officers, that the girls were ‘little slags’ not to be trusted. I believe there was a view that the abuse was somehow ‘consensual’.”
Jayne added, “I don’t think any of what has happened in Rotherham is connected with
religion. Neither do I think it’s a racial issue.”
She told Socialist Worker that white girls weren’t the only victims—boys and Asian girls suffered abuse too.
Jayne wrote that children are continuing to suffer abuse in Rotherham “with very little being done to prevent it”.
And police in Rotherham “have some way to go before they treat the victims of CSE with the understanding and respect they deserve”.
‘Hostility and intimidation’
Adele Weir, now Gladman, carried out research into abuse in Rotherham for the Home Office in the early 2000s.
Jayne’s book describes a meeting with then Rotherham police commander Christine Burbeary to discuss the research.
“She accused Adele of making up stories and deliberately lying,” wrote Jayne. “Intimidating doesn’t even begin to describe Christine Burbeary’s behaviour.”
Soon afterwards Risky Business was robbed. Files, case studies and other information was taken.
There were no broken locks or windows.
A Risky Business computer had also been “accessed”. Adele experienced “intense personal hostility and intimidation” from the council and South Yorkshire Police.
Jayne described a police officer stopping Adele in her car and told her “in no uncertain terms that ‘people’ knew where she lived”.
She described bumping into a police officer she knew when leaving work. “He said, ‘You really need to make sure your tyres are in good nick, and your vehicle is insured. Just thought I’d let you know that’.”
Racists seize on the cases
Racist and fascist groups seized on the abuse scandal in Rotherham to paint abuse as a problem caused by Asian men. The perpetrators in recent high-profile court cases have been mainly Asian men—although white women were convicted of offences too.
The abuse in Rotherham is horrific. But it would be wrong to conclude that most people who suffer abuse are abused by Asian men. Report after report has shown that most abuse takes place within the family.
One, from the University Campus Suffolk and the Survivors in Transition charity, was published last November. It found that 70 percent of survivors were abused within their family or extended family.
Last week the charity Barnados said stereotypes about abuse could put victims at risk. It warned that children targeted by older women may not be identified as victims.
The report said victims are “not solely white British” and that boys who suffer CSE are a “hidden group”.
‘Serious failures’ by police
A review of South Yorkshire Police’s handling of child sexual exploitation (CSE) between 1997 and this year was published by Professor John Drew last week.
Drew found that the police response to CSE was “inadequate, especially in Rotherham”.
There were “serious failings” of policing in Rotherham in the early 2000s and “significant failures after 2007”.
Reports on CSE had been considered “at chief superintendent and superintendent level” and “in 2011 at assistant chief constable level”.
SYP records the ethnicity of suspects of identified CSE between January 2014 and January this year. Some 65 percent were “White, North European”, 2.4 percent were “White, South European” and19 percent were “Asian”.
The report noted suggestions that SYP did not tackle Asian abusers for fear of being accused of racism. Drew wrote, “I have received little evidence on this point.”
Drew identified key reasons for the lack of action on CSE including too narrow a definition of it, a top down culture, and attitudes to young people.
Drew “heard examples of ‘canteen humour’ applied to children who were regularly missing from home”. One chief inspector said police in Rotherham during the 2000s saw CSE as “a burden”. Drew noted “speculation” about whether “improper and corrupt relationships between police officers and perpetrators” stopped officers tackling abuse.
The report said SYP’s response to safeguarding children from CSE was now “adequate”. It added that improvements still need to be made.