Today produced further evidence of the way Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire police are evading and avoiding key questions on sex abuse by their use of language.
This morning the Sheffield Star http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/local/exclusive-south-yorkshire-police-given-list-of-key-sheffield-and-rotherham-abuse-suspects-in-2003-1-7243228 published a story which revealed that police and council officials in Rotherham were warned that gangs of men were grooming children for sex as long ago as 2003 but failed to act.
The two bodies were sent a list of suspects along with a report that linked drug-dealing and ‘significant’ child abuse. The warnings were repeated in another report three years later, but no action was taken against the gangs trafficking children.
It of course defies belief that it required a Freedom of Information request to gain access to these reports, but my interest is in the responses.
This followed traditional evade and avoid tactics, both in the use of ambiguous language and secondly in making generalised statements of current policy that don’t address the issues raised by the newly published documents.
Rotherham Council’s response to the BBC is a classic: the council said it had been “unable to find any reference to the documents being formally considered” by the authority.
“Unable to find” doesn’t mean they don’t exist and doesn’t really tell us how hard they looked. What exactly constitutes “a reference”? As for “formally considered;” this is not a denial that they were informally considered; nor does it tell us where the line between the two types of consideration is set.
As for the rest of what the two bodies said, they just state current policy and makes not attempt to answer issues raised by the Sheffield Star.
Make your own judgements:
A spokesman for the council said today: ‘Child sexual exploitation is a challenge nationally and locally as we have previously stated. It is a dreadful and sad crime. Sheffield has been publishing annual reports for a number of years detailing this and how the Sheffield Safeguarding Children’s Board were tackling the issue. We continue to use every tool at our disposal to tackle child sexual exploitation and will never be complacent.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of police officers and staff dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation and we are absolutely committed to achieving justice, stopping the harm and preventing future offending.
“We have centralised the team of officers involved in ongoing investigations into non-recent allegations of sexual exploitation, some of these investigations are large scale and involve large numbers of potential victims and potential offenders.”