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CHILD ABUSE

How English town let Asian sexual predators rape 1,400 children over 16 years

How police and community leaders in an English town let Asian sexual predators subject girls as young as 11 to horrific abuse for 16 years

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 August, 2014, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 3:20am
 

"Collective failures" by authorities in a northern English town allowed the sexual exploitation of at least 1,400 children over a 16-year period, a damning report says. Victims as young as 11 were beaten, raped and trafficked, mainly by members of the town's Asian community, it says.

Report author Professor Alexis Jay cited appalling acts of violence between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, a town of 250,000. The independent report followed convictions of sexual predators in the region and ground-breaking reporting by The Times.

Victims described the perpetrators as "Asian" but the town's council failed to engage with the Pakistani community. Police told the inquiry that some Pakistani councillors in Rotherham acted as barriers to communication on the issue of adult Asian men grooming children for sex.

"Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away," Jay said. "Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so."

Jahangir Akhtar, the former deputy leader of the council, is accused of naivety and potentially "ignoring a politically inconvenient truth" by insisting there was not a deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls.

The report makes grim reading. It describes rapes by multiple perpetrators, mainly from Britain's Pakistani community, and how children were trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.

"There were 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," Jay said. "Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators."

The report's author offered a general description of the cases showing the victims were between 11 and 16. Most, but not all, were girls, preyed upon by unrelated older men.

A sampling of case studies showed the victims first came into contact with authorities for a variety of reasons, including being reported missing from home, leaving school with unknown men or as victims of stalking. Most of the victims in the older cases were described as "white British children", but the report said that more recently a greater number were coming from the growing Pakistani, Kashmiri and Roma communities.

Attention first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men received lengthy jail terms after convictions for grooming teenagers for sex. A series of other high-profile cases featuring Pakistani grooming rings also emerged in Rochdale, Derby and Oxford. Communities began to look more closely at their child sex exploitation cases.

Rotherham decided to conduct a formal inquiry and Jay, a former chief social work adviser to the Scottish government, was appointed to investigate.

Police "regarded many child victims with contempt", Jay said, adding that many of the children were known to child protection agencies. Even though earlier reports described the situation in Rotherham, the first of these reports was "effectively suppressed" because senior officers did not believe the data.

"The collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant," Jay said. "From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual exploitation was a serious problem."

News of the sheer scale of the abuse and the lack of official concern about the problem until it was exposed shocked the country. Charities that deal with abused children were taken aback by the number of victims and by the apparent reluctance of authorities to accuse members of one ethnic group of the violence.

"Cultural sensitivities should never stand in the way of protecting children," said John Cameron, head of the helpline for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. "It is hard to imagine the damage caused to victims who were preyed upon with almost impunity over many years, because of a reluctance to comprehend or address what was happening."

The local council leader, Roger Stone, resigned immediately. Prime Minister David Cameron's office said lessons must be learned and those who exploited the children brought to justice.

Additional reporting by The Guardian

 


Former senior US government staffer convicted on child porn charges

A federal jury in the United States has convicted a former cybersecurity chief at the US health department on multiple child pornography charges.

Timothy DeFoggi, 56, was the sixth person to be convicted as part of an ongoing investigation targeting three websites, the Justice Department said. He was convicted of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, conspiracy to advertise and distribute child pornography, and accessing a computer with intent to view child pornography in connection with his membership in a child pornography website.

DeFoggi - a former acting director of cybersecurity at the US Department of Health and Human Services - even suggested meeting one member in person to fulfil their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children, according to prosecutors. He registered with the website on March 2, 2012, and maintained his activity until December 8, 2012, when the FBI shut it down.

A jury in the midwestern state of Nebraska reached its verdict following a four-day trial. Sentencing is scheduled for November 7.

Agence France-Presse

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