Rotherham: child prostitutes vanish and a purge on taxi drivers
Rotherham is now a town synonymous with sex crimes. The Times reports that “50 Rotherham taxi drivers have been stripped of their licences under new regulations introduced after the town’s sex-grooming scandal.”
Among them was the local authority’s former deputy leader, Jahangir Akhtar, who featured in a recent trial at which three of his relatives were convicted of multiple sexual offences against young girls.
Is it fair to single him out by name? He is innocent.
Rotherham council said that a decision was taken 12 months ago that Mr Akhtar’s licence should immediately be revoked. No reason was made public but a council spokesman said that such a decision could only be taken after the receipt of information that “gives rise to significant and serious concerns for risks to public safety if the licence remains in place”.
Why is a reason not made public? The phrasing implies that there was a reason to revoke the licence, so why not state it?
An independent inquiry by Alexis Jay “..noted frequent past warnings that taxi operators and their drivers played a prominent role in the abuse. A follow-up inspection of the council, ordered by the government and led by Louise Casey, found that Pakistani-heritage councillors had a disproportionate influence in the council, particularly on issues which affected the Pakistani community ‘such as the taxi trade’.”
The Times harks back to an incident it helped to broadcast:
Mr Akhtar, 55, resigned as council deputy leader in 2013 after The Times revealed his role in a deal under which a violent child abuser to whom he was related, Arshid Hussain, agreed to hand a missing 14-year-girl to police at a petrol station after he received an assurance that he would not be prosecuted.
Hussain, 40, was one of three Rotherham brothers jailed by Sheffield crown court last month for offences against 14 children, including the girl involved in the petrol station handover. Mr Akhtar was unavailable for comment last night.
The Sheffield Star has more:
Rotherham Council is pursuing its former deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar for £2,000 of court costs after he withdrew an appeal against his taxi licence being revoked.
The council has confirmed Mr Akhtar had said he would appeal against his licence being revoked in February 2015.
But ahead of the scheduled hearing at Rotherham Magistrates Court in September 2015, he withdrew his appeal – with the court awarding costs to the council in relation to their legal work in preparing a case for the hearing.
A spokesman for Rotherham Council said: “The council is pursuing collection of this through the civil debt enforcement process.”
The Sheffield Star also has a few words on the new routine:
The new ‘fit and proper’ persons test takes account of previous criminal convictions and complaints, while there are more stringent requirements regarding safety and the age of vehicles.
The report from the commissioners said: “An audit of all drivers against the new standard identified that six per cent of drivers may be in breach.
“All of these 67 were offered the opportunity of a case hearing which has resulted in around 70 per cent of these licences being revoked.
“By January this year, 963 drivers had attended training sessions on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults; the remaining 171 drivers are suspended until they complete the training.
“If they fail to do so within the required timescale, the licence suspension will take full effect.”
As for the sex with underage children, the Rotherham Advertiser tells us:
MP SARAH Champion has succeeded in changing how some child sex abuse crimes are officially categorised.
The Rotherham MP and shadow minister for preventing abuse and domestic violence, pressured the Office for National Statistics (ONS) into removing the term “abuse of children through prostitution” from national crime statistics.
The ONS had reported in their latest release in January that “abuse of children through prostitution” had increased by 65 per cent in the last year.
But Ms Champion wrote to the Government pointing out that the use of the word “prostitution” was wrong as “it infers criminality on the part on the child and does not acknowledge that children cannot consent to sex themselves, but are instead exploited.”
“Victim blaming has been a barrier to justice for many and this change is another step in the right direction.”
No word yet on what the police think of that.