Council 'tackling teen sex abuse'
A council has said it is "fully committed to tackling sexual exploitation" after a newspaper investigation said it had evidence of widespread abuse of teenage girls in a town in the north of England.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council was responding to a report in The Times which claimed details from 200 restricted-access documents show how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town have had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet a string of offences have gone unprosecuted.
The spotlight fell on the town in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as "sexual predators", were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
The murder of 17-year-old Laura Wilson, from Rotherham, in 2010 also raised questions about the sexual exploitation of teenagers in the town. A judge who jailed her boyfriend Ashtiaq Asghar for the murder said he treated white girls as "sexual targets" and not like human beings.
A serious case review into Laura's case published earlier this year said there were "numerous missed opportunities" to protect the teenage mother as social services managers said her murder could not have been prevented by agencies involved with her.
The Times has now said the documents it obtained showed agencies were aware of extensive and co-ordinated abuse of white girls by some Asian men in Rotherham and detailed a range of offences for which no one has been prosecuted.
The paper said another report, for Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board, said these crimes had "cultural characteristics ... which are locally sensitive in terms of diversity" but added that "it is imperative that suggestions of a wider cultural phenomenon are avoided".
Joyce Thacker, strategic director of Children and Young People's Services, said: "Rotherham council, working with local partner agencies and the community, is fully committed to tackling sexual exploitation - a commitment which has led to the conviction of men involved in this despicable crime as well as support for victims and potential victims and the education of hundreds of young people about the dangers of sexual exploitation."
Ms Thacker said Rotherham has a dedicated team to work with victims, or potential victims, of sexual exploitation, which she said was one of the first in the UK. She said the watchdog Ofsted had reviewed child protection in Rotherham and highlighted the "good collaborative working between the council and the police to tackle sexual exploitation".
She added: "In many respects Rotherham's services are well ahead of other areas in having secured convictions and having a dedicated team which focuses on the issue of sexual exploitation, carrying out preventative work, education and assisting with criminal investigations."