Rotherham: What the police did with teenage ‘prostitutes’, Pakistani men and complicit councillors
PC Hassan Ali was killed crossing a Road in Sheffield. He was stuck by a blue Vauxhall Corsa on January 28. PC Hassan Ali served with South Yorkshire Police as neighbourhood policing officer based in Rotherham. He had 18 years service with the force.
He wasn’t on duty at the time of his death. We can’t be certain what was going through Mr Hasan’s mind before he was killed. But this Sky News headline encourages us to guess:
Rotherham Abuse Scandal Policeman Dies
That is followed by:
The death of PC Hassan Ali, who was reportedly being investigated by the police watchdog, is not being treated as suspicious.
That report is in the Sheffield Star:
South Yorkshire Police said Pc H assan Ali, 44, died today after he was involved in a collision in Sheffield last month when was off-duty. It is understood that complaints had been made about Pc Ali which related to the scandal involving the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham and he was under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
No policeman has been arrested over the abuse of hundreds of children in Rotherham. Not one. The only prosecution has been against eight of Pakistani-origin men. In 2010, five defendants were convicted and jailed for a total of 32 years.
If Professor Alexis Jay’s report is correct and at at leasts 1,400 girls were subjected to abuse over 16 years, justice demands more arrests and more convictions.
Andrew Norfolk reported for the Times:
A corrupt police officer and two councillors have been accused of having sex with victims of one of Britain’s worst child abuse scandals, The Times can reveal…
Complaints against the two Rotherham councillors are understood to have been sent to the National Crime Agency, which is investigating child-sex crimes in the town. One of the councillors is still serving.
Allegations against the police officer, who is also said to have regularly passed information to abusers targeting vulnerable children for sex, have separately been referred to the police watchdog by the South Yorkshire force.
A second officer is accused of neglect in his duty because he allegedly failed to take appropriate action after receiving intelligence about his colleague’s conduct. The claims are being assessed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
In 2012, when The Times published confidential documents revealing that police officers and council officials had known for at least a decade that girls in Rotherham were being groomed, pimped and trafficked by men with virtual impunity, the local authority’s response was to demand a criminal inquiry into the leaking of the documents.
The council threatened High Court action to block another story and also hired a firm of solicitors to expose the “security breach”….
Senior police officers and council officials were said to have known of the abuse yet chose to “disbelieve, suppress or ignore” evidence of multiple crimes.
At which point we’d ask: where is Charlene Downes?
Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police David Crompton said Mr Ali was a “well-liked officer” and colleagues had been left “devastated” by his death.”All of our thoughts are with Hassan’s family and on behalf of the force I would like to offer my sincere condolences at this incredibly difficult time,” he said.
What do we know?
According to the Sheffield Star, a complaint had been made against Pc Ali after he asked a sexual exploitation victim in Rotherham on a date on two occasions. The paper said today that it had held off on publishing this story before his death after they were told by detectives that the officer was the subject of a monitoring operation.
Police and media working together. Why? Isn’t transparency what we’re after? Or are there bigger fish to fry?
Only now do South Yorkshire Police go on the record:
“South Yorkshire Police received four public complaints relating to alleged misconduct of an officer. The force referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.”
The Star said the officer had been placed on restricted duties while the IPCC carried out a preliminary investigation.
It said one of the people who complained was the victim of abuse between the ages of 14 and 17 and Pc Ali had been involved her case. The paper said she complained when she was an adult that the officer asked her out twice – when she was 17 and when she was 21 – saying: “It was inappropriate. He was a police officer who knew that I was being abused. It is totally unprofessional.”
She said she turned him down on both occasions.
The woman told the Star that Pc Ali’s first approach to her was when he had managed to get her a picture of her young son’s father – her abuser – from police files.
In other news:
Ten police officers are to be investigated over the handling of child sex abuse cases in Rotherham, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has announced. The police watchdog said the South Yorkshire Police officers were all identified through the Jay Report…
All together 13 officers had been referred to the IPCC, but three – who were identified through a separate internal review by the force – will not face investigation at this time.
IPCC Commissioner Kathryn Stone explains:
“The amount of public concern across the country about this episode and the impact on confidence in the police means it is important that a fully independent investigation is conducted to establish how South Yorkshire Police dealt with child sexual exploitation.”
Look out for the phrase ‘ lessons must be learned’:
“I sincerely hope that victims and their families will see this investigation as a positive step towards answering the many questions they must have. I have met with South Yorkshire Police and am reassured by their commitment to fully cooperate with the investigation.”
What they want is justice. The National Crime Agency is investigating, gathering evidence to bring the rapsits to court. But until we know more, Rotherham continues to fester.
Andrew Norfolk again:
Whitehall-appointed commissioners are to take over Rotherham council after a report exposed a culture of complete denial about the town’s child sexual exploitation scandal as well as “bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced ‘political correctness”’.
The damning report found that men of Pakistani origin were allowed to abuse hundreds of young white girls in the town in part because council staff were terrified of being labelled racist if they challenged the sex crimes.
Louise Casey’s best value inspection of Rotherham metropolitan borough council, conducted under section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, can be read in full:
Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles writes:
…both members and officers lack the confidence to tackle difficult issues for fear of being seen as racist or upsetting community cohesion
Louise Casey’s report uncovered serious weaknesses in the council’s taxi licensing where sufficient steps to ensure only fit and proper persons are permitted to hold taxi licenses have not been, and are not being undertake…
Terrible things happened in Rotherham and on a significant scale. Children were sexually exploited by men who came largely from the Pakistani Heritage Community… Upon arriving in Rotherham, these I thought were the uncontested facts. My job was to conduct an inspection and decide whether the Council was now fit for purpose. However this was not the situation I encountered when I reached Rotherham. Instead, I found a Council in denial. They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said. If there was a problem they certainly were not told – it was someone else’s job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them…
Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only to not act, but to close that service down.
And on race:
There is a small but established community in Rotherham which is of Pakistani heritage which accounts for around 3% of Rotherham’s population… Other ethnic
minorities, including the Czech and Slovak Roma, in total account for 8% of the population…
Inspectors heard evidence from a range of quarters that indicated RMBC struggled historically a nd into the present day with the issue of race. It seems that with an intention of not being racist, their ways of dealing with race does more harm than good…
Inspectors heard a range of views and thoughts from interviewees about attitudes to race and culture that caused them concern and reinforced the conclusion that the Council could not deal sensibly with the is sue. Indeed, some Councillors held racist or wholly outdated or inappropriate views. Many of these views were known about but not challenged.
Says one current Councillor:
“The girls, the way they dress, they don’t look 14-15 years old, the way they make up – they look more adult. They go into clubs, get served in bars, It’s very difficult for me, very modern dress…..They have been fooled definitely [men in Asian Community]. The British Asians. If you hav e identified so many perpetrators, why have there been so little arrests? They feel British Asians have been hit by Jay.”…
The former Deputy Leader, Jahangir Akhtar, was sometimes seen to be able to ‘deliver’ on difficult issues for the council. Inspectors were told that he had been able to stop young ‘Asian’ men coming out on the streets when the EDL wanted to march in the town…
Some claimed that Jahangir Akhtar’s influence extended to the police: “There was once a situation where a girl from a Pakistani heritage family went missing, they [Asian Councill
ors] went straight to the Chief Superintendent and that influenced our operations, they held a lot of power.”…
The Times interjects.
Jahangir Akhtar, 54, arrived in Britain as a nine-year-old, joined the Labour party in 1990, won election as a councillor 15 years ago and rose to become the authority’s deputy leader and vice-chairman of the South Yorkshire police and crime panel.
He resigned in 2013 after The Times revealed his role in unofficial discussions that led to an extraordinary deal over a missing child.
Under its terms, a violent offender to whom Mr Akhtar was related — a man already linked by the authorities to the grooming and abuse of more than a dozen underage girls from Rotherham — agreed to hand the missing 14-year-old to police at a petrol station after being assured that he would not be detained.
The incident happened in March 2000, two months before Mr Akhtar became a councillor. A social services report quoted a police officer who explained that officers “had ‘got’ [the girl] after the community policeman had done a ‘deal’ and made arrangements to meet at a neutral venue — petrol station”.
When he was asked about his role in the handover, the politician denied any knowledge of the incident but later admitted that he had received a phone call from a police officer that led him to approach the mother of the man suspected of abducting the child, who was pregnant.
Mr Akhtar said he warned the mother to tell her son “to phone the police and get her back”. He denied any knowledge of the deal that was subsequently agreed and insisted that he was not at the petrol station when the girl was handed to the police. He said it did not occur to him that the incident “might be anything to do with child sexual exploitation”.
After The Times reported the case, Mr Akhtar resigned as deputy council leader and left his position on the police and crime panel. He lost his seat on the council to Ukip in last year’s local election..
The Mail added:
This is the man named as an alleged serial child abuser 13 years ago by victims of the Rotherham grooming scandal. Yet despite being accused of vile crimes by 18 young girls, Arshid Hussain was never questioned by police. Now, though, officers are investigating Hussain, who these days is confined to a wheelchair following a shooting.
Mr Akhtar has denied protecting Hussain or knowing about any inappropriate relationships. Hussain was named as a ‘boyfriend’ by up to 18 girls who spoke to social workers as part of the Risky Business outreach group, aimed at youngsters who were at risk of being lured into prostitution
Back to Casey:
Early concerns raised about CSE by youth workers and others had also repeatedly mentioned ta xi drivers. This predominant involvement of Pakistani heritage men was certainly the view of all those who Inspectors spoke to who had been close to operational work around street grooming and CSE in Rotherham in the previous 15 years. Victims shared this view.
Our review of case files and strategy meetings held about perpetrators and victims as well as other information we came across, confirmed that perpetrators wereusually described as being Pakistani men. This was a matter of fact. However the wider culture in Rotherham we have described meant that from the outset the added dimension of the ethnic background of perpetrators was an awkward and uncomfortable truth which, in the view of the inspection team, affected the way that the Council (and the police) dealt with CSE…
Staff perceived that there was only a small step between mentioning the ethnicity of perpetrators and being labelled a racist.
One former social worker’s words resonate:
Another social worker recalled a strategy meeting about an exploited young person where Pakistani heritage taxi drivers were referred to as “men of a certain ethnicity, engaged in a particular occupation.”
“If we mentioned Asian taxi drivers we we re told we were racist and the young people were seen as prostitutes.”
The background threat of the BNP (British National Party) or EDL (English Defence League) exploiting the problems in Rotherha m for their own divisive ends may have
been a rationale for not talking about the ‘race issue’ openly. But in fact this made it worse. Even if at some point, by some peo ple, this was well in tentioned, it has not
served any positive purpose at all. It has in effect suppressed a problem that should be dealt with openly and properly..
Staff in Licensing felt that some Councillors made representations on behalf of taxi drivers. Councillor Mahroof Hussain suggested he had done this in his capacity as a ward Councillor owing to the large number of Pakistani heritage drivers in his ward. He states this may have given the impr ession that he was overly representing the community or the trade and that he would not place undue pressure on officers…
Rotherham’s suppression of these uncomfo rtable issues and its fear of being branded racist has done a disservice to the Pakistani heritage community as well as the wider community. It has prevented discu ssion and effective action to tackle the problem. This has allowed perpetrators to remain at large, has let victims down, and perversely, has allowed the far right to try and exploit the situation. These may have been unintended consequences but the impact remains the same and reaches into the present day.
The powerful control and set the agenda. The powerless – the victims – are ignored or dismissed as asking for it.