An independent inquiry has revealed that at least 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham over a 16-year period.
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The findings of the report, written by Professor Alexis Jay, have already led to the resignation of Rotherham MBC’s leader Roger Stone (Lab). However, council chief executive Martin Kimber said all senior officers during the period in question had moved on and he would not be referring any current staff to practice regulators.
Read LGC’s full coverage of the report
In the report Professor Jay, a former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, wrote: “No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.”
Her report criticised a “prevailing culture” at the council, until 2009, that was “bullying and ‘macho’ and not an appropriate climate in which to discuss the rape and sexual exploitation of young people.” It said the five former council chief executives interviewed for the report said economic regeneration had been the council’s overriding priority over this period.
It said: “For much of the time, senior officers did little to keep members fully informed of the scale and seriousness of the problem, on occasion telling members they believed it was exaggerated.”
The report also revealed that staff had “described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist”. Some said they had been told to avoid mentioning ethnicity by their manager.
Findings included “cases where a child was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, children who were threatened with guns [and] children who witnessed brutally violent rapes and were threatened that they would be the next victim if they told anyone.
“Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators, one after the other,” it said.
At a press conference this afternoon, Mr Kimber said he accepted in full the report’s findings and confirmed Cllr Stone had resigned as leader.
In a statement, Cllr Stone offered “heartfelt apologies to those young people and their families who this report shows have been badly let down by the council in the past”.
He added: “Like any right-minded person, I am disgusted by [child sexual exploitation] and abhor the lifelong damage that it wreaks upon the lives of all those affected by it. It is a matter of great regret for me, as it is for many others, that so many people have been traumatised by CSE here in Rotherham.
“However, having considered the report, I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so.”