In November 2006, an underage girl went to Greater Manchester Police to report a sexual assault. According to the girl, she was ordered “to meet with an adult unless she was drunk.” As she left the train station, she met two men who:
…invited them to “chill” in their car. These men sexually assaulted her, and further sexual assaults by various men took place in a car and a house.
Despite reporting this alleged breach of duty to the police, nothing happened.
No institution can eliminate incompetence. Indeed, an institution trying to eliminate incompetence might become paranoid and sclerotic. But the staggering level of incompetence, negligence, and outright indifference described in two recent accounts of the “care gang” phenomenon is gut-wrenching.
Again and again nothing happened because the police and other officials were uninteresting or downright inhuman. For example, as we learned this week from an independent review commissioned by Oldham Council, serial child abuser Shabir Ahmed continued working as a welfare officer of all things after facing multiple allegations of abuse because police never got around to telling his employers. “If … procedures had been followed,” the report said, “his abusive behavior could have been addressed at an earlier stage and potentially prevented the abuse of his subsequent victims.”
In Rotherham, however, as the Independent Office for Police Conduct also detailed this week, some cases of the rape of young girls have not been investigated because the victims “consented” to the abuse. Reference is made to a lack of “awareness training”. It could be true that cops necessary Awareness training to understand that children cannot “consent” to sex, but Damn it is it depressing
The police obviously hated dealing with the girls
Many details of the prolific Rotherham pedophile ring were uncovered in the 2014 Jay Report, but the level of police incompetence still leaves one speechless. An 11 year old – a 11 years old – was apparently in a car with one of the perpetrators when it was stopped by the police. The perpetrator warned the child not to say anything that might arouse suspicion, but she “voluntarily stated that they lived in a children’s home, her real age, and that the perpetrator was her ‘boyfriend’.” The police reportedly did nothing.
Most of the girls came from difficult backgrounds and many of them lived in children’s homes. The police obviously hated dealing with them. As a comfortable opinion columnist, I should acknowledge that working with troubled children must be very tough. On the other hand, this is no excuse for young girls not being able to have sexual relations with adults. Not even close.
“We found,” says the report, “there was often a feeling among parents…[that] You were wasting police time.” What did the police have to do that was so much more important than the potential exploitation of children? (This was before they dealt with the terrible phenomenon “my tweets“.)
Both reports dismiss the fact that most of the perpetrators in Rotherham and Oldham, as in several other high-profile cases, were of Pakistani origin. A recent Home Office report was hailed in the liberal press for “dispelling the myth of grooming gangs”. As Jonathan Gleadell patiently explained, it did nothing of the sort. Instead, it found that the data is too sparse to draw firm conclusions.
Authorities have approved child predators of all backgrounds. The cases of Jimmy Savile and Ian Watkins are particularly notorious. Still, it’s awful to read how Oldham officials were so afraid of attracting the attention of the far right that they rashly claimed to inquisitive journalists that “there is no problem with private members’ clubs in Oldham” (informal “Just for Members’ hookah bars are a common center of child kidnapping). With an element of farce, in the same email in which a communications officer reported killing a story about the problem, they cheerfully added:
hp In case you didn’t know, we also won Best City at Northwest in Bloom again today.
It’s also horrific to hear the claim that parents have been told by Rotherham Police that having an ‘older Asian boyfriend’ is a ‘fashion accessory’ for young girls. How much “awareness training” did these fellows need? Were they even aware of the time of day?
The Oldham Report stresses that many officers and police officers did their best to stop criminals and raise awareness. That’s fair enough. It is hard to bear that none of the reports insist on individual accountability for people who did this Not, although. Admittedly, institutional failings were more serious than individual failures. But nobody takes responsibility for institutions? If not, who has an in-game skin?
Another report from 2022 in Rotherham found protective measures were in place massively improved. It is hoped that this will be the case across the UK. Still, we can’t just do it trust the authorities. The failures of the police and council, which made possible large-scale child abuse, were in turn made possible by a broader, deeper complacency. Few people took notice of rumors simmering in the streets. One person who did this was a local volunteer at a church in Oldham. She told investigators:
Okay, we saw a lot of young girls going in and I was like a moth in a fire personally. I wanted to go in and see what these girls were doing. They often looked too young and as a mother I would say you, you, you, you, go. You know, and I’m big enough and ugly enough to handle myself, so I think I’m going to Curse of whoever owned this place because I didn’t think it was appropriate and right and I would ask her to leave.
God bless this woman. Eternal shame on people who could have acted and didn’t.