The damning verdict on police who failed Rotherham victims

The damning verdict on police who failed Rotherham victims 2
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Almost 50 police officers all kept their jobs despite looking the other way while 1,400 girls were abused, trafficked and groomed in Rotherham, a damning report has found.

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The long-awaited document by the police watchdog found South Yorkshire Police ‘failed to protect vulnerable children’ following a series of offences carried out between 1997 and 2013. 

A total of 47 current and former officers were investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) – but none were fired, despite 265 separate allegations being made by more than 50 complainants.  

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The IOPC’s investigation catalogued how teenagers were seen as ‘consenting’ to their abuse by officers, who were told to prioritise other crimes.

It detailed how one parent concerned about a missing daughter said they were told by an officer ‘it was a ‘fashion accessory’ for girls in Rotherham to have an ‘older Asian boyfriend’ and that she would grow out of it’.

Abusers: (Top row, left to right:) Tayab Dad, Nasar Dad, Basharat Dad. (Bottom row left to right:) Matloob Hussain, Mohammed Sadiq and Amjad Ali groomed two girls in Rotherham

Abusers: (Top row, left to right:) Tayab Dad, Nasar Dad, Basharat Dad. (Bottom row left to right:) Matloob Hussain, Mohammed Sadiq and Amjad Ali groomed two girls in Rotherham

The damning verdict on police who failed Rotherham victims 3

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Police chief: ‘Victims and survivors let down’

Reacting to the report, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings said: ‘I am disappointed that after eight years of very costly investigations, this report fails to make any significant recommendations over and above what South Yorkshire Police have already accepted and implemented from previous investigations some years ago.

‘It repeats what past reports and reviews have shown – that there was unacceptable practice between 1997 and 2013 – but fails to identify any individual accountability.

‘As a result, it lets down victims and survivors.’

IOPC director-general Michael Lockwood said in the report: ‘We found that officers were not fully aware, or able to deal with, Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (CSE) offences and showed insufficient empathy towards survivors who were vulnerable children and young people.

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‘We saw examples of SYP seeing children, and young people, as ‘consenting’ to their exploitation, and a police culture that did not always recognise survivors as victims, or understand that, often, neither did those being groomed or abused.’

The IOPC identified systemic problems within South Yorkshire Police at the time, detailing how CSE in Rotherham was dealt with by a small ‘overwhelmed’ unit, which had a number of other responsibilities.

The report criticised the force for prioritising other crimes, such as burglary and vehicle crime, at the expense of CSE and it found ‘little evidence that SYP’s leadership identified, and acted on, emerging concerns about (CSE)’.

IOPC director of major investigations Steve Noonan said: ‘Our report shows how SYP failed to protect vulnerable children and young people.

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‘Like other agencies in Rotherham at that time, it was simply not equipped to deal with the abuse and organised grooming of young girls on the scale we encountered.’

Mr Noonan praised the survivors of CSE in Rotherham who came forward to help his investigators conduct the biggest inquiry the watchdog has undertaken apart from the Hillsborough disaster probe.

He said 51 people made complaints, including 44 survivors, involving 265 separate allegations.

Of the 47 officers investigated, eight were found to have a case to answer for misconduct and six had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

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Five of these officers received sanctions ranging from management action up to a final written warning. Another faced a South Yorkshire Police misconduct hearing earlier this year, and the case was found not proven by an independent panel.

In many cases, officers had retired and could not face disciplinary proceedings, the IOPC said. Only two cases reached the point of a public adjudication hearing.

South Yorkshire’s PCC Alan Billings said: ‘I am disappointed that after eight years of very costly investigations, this report fails to make any significant recommendations over and above what South Yorkshire Police have already accepted and implemented from previous investigations some years ago.

‘It repeats what past reports and reviews have shown – that there was unacceptable practice between 1997 and 2013 – but fails to identify any individual accountability.

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‘As a result, it lets down victims and survivors.’

Dr Billings said: ‘A great deal of time and money has been spent for few new findings or accountability.’

He said it was unfair officers have had allegations of misconduct ‘hanging over them for so long’, but said the force was now ‘on a path of continuous improvement’.

South Yorkshire’s deputy chief constable Tim Forber said: ‘We fully accept the findings of the IOPC report which closely reflects those highlighted by Professor Alexis Jay in 2014.

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‘The Jay Report brought a stark reality of our failings in handling CSE. We let victims of CSE down. We failed to recognise their vulnerability and failed to see them as victims, for that I am deeply sorry. They deserved better from us.

‘The brave accounts of these girls caused a seismic change in policing crimes of this nature for South Yorkshire Police and the wider police service.’

Mr Forber said: ‘Whilst I am confident we are a very different force today, I will not lose sight of the fact that we got it wrong and we let victims down.’

David Greenwood, a solicitor representing 80 Rotherham CSE survivors said: ‘It shows the British public the level of disregard shown by South Yorkshire Police to female victims of sexual exploitation, it explains that even by the pathetically low standards of the police service it was ‘okay’ to not investigate these crimes properly or at all, and it will demonstrate how the system of police complaints has provided zero accountability and needs reform.’

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Rotherham child sexual abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse says ‘monster’ gang ringleader treated her like ‘dead body on a slab’ after grooming her and isolating her from her family at 14

A Rotherham grooming gang survivor says her abuser treated her like a ‘dead body on a slab in a morgue’ and branded him an ‘absolute monster’. 

Sammy Woodhouse, 35, was sexually abused as a 14-year-old by ringleader Arshid ‘Ash’ Hussain and bravely waived her anonymity as a rape victim to expose the paedophile gang.  

She was subjected to horrendous abuse including rape, assaults and coercion with threats to kill her family at the hands of Hussain, and in 1999 at the age of 15, Sammy fell pregnant with the 25-year-old’s baby. 

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Opening up about her experience on Crime+Investigation programme Survivors, she told how she was ‘completely out of her depth’ as a teenager and had no idea how ‘dangerous’ Hussain would be. 

Rotherham grooming gang survivor Sammy Woodhouse, 35, has spoken out against her 'monster' abuser

Rotherham grooming gang survivor Sammy Woodhouse, 35, has spoken out against her ‘monster’ abuser

Sammy, pictured at 15, was sexually abused as a teen by ringleader Arshid 'Ash' Hussain and bravely waived her anonymity as a rape victim to expose the paedophile gang

Sammy, pictured at 15, was sexually abused as a teen by ringleader Arshid ‘Ash’ Hussain and bravely waived her anonymity as a rape victim to expose the paedophile gang

‘I was pretty much his sex doll; he was an absolute monster. I just felt like a dead body on a slab in a morgue’, Sammy said.  

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Hussain was part of a gang in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, who along with many other groups abused over 1,000 children between 1997 and 2013. He was jailed for 35 years in 2016 for 23 offences involving nine women, including Sammy.  

‘I grew up in Rotherham, about two and a half miles from the town centre’, said Sammy. ‘I was your average, everyday little girl I suppose.’  

From the age of four Sammy’s dream was to be a dancer, and at 11-years-old she joined a national aerobics squad and began dancing all over the country

Hussain (pictured) was jailed for 35 years in 2016 for 23 offences involving nine women, including Sammy

Hussain (pictured) was jailed for 35 years in 2016 for 23 offences involving nine women, including Sammy

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‘It was great. We would get a minibus and go to my coach and manager’s house in the morning and get your hair and make-up done and we’d all chant songs,’ she recalled. 

However when her grades at school began to slip, her parents pulled her from the dance team, with Sammy admitting: ‘I started to develop a little bit of a lip, so my parents thought by doing that as a punishment would be the best thing. 

‘I think for me when I stopped dancing it had a massive effect, it was something I focused my whole life around. So for that to be stopped and taken away, it did affect things.’ 

Without dancing to pass the time, Sammy began spending more time with her friends, spending evenings in the park drinking and smoking. 

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‘There was a particular area where my dad grew up and he hated me being there’, said Sammy. ‘He always said if you go out you are not allowed to be in that area. 

‘It was known for people going out smoking cannabis, drinking, my dad didn’t want me involved in that and my life had gone from being a dancer to going up to the park with a packet of fags and litre of White Lightning with my mates. That was what my life was, that was cool for us to do.’ 

Sammy first met Hussain through a friend and she quickly became besotted as he groomed the teen by taking her out, buying her presents, and paying her compliments. 

‘I was on my local shop with a friend and he started to drive up the street in a silver Astra and I will never forget the first moment I saw him,’ said Sammy. 

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‘He was good looking, he was well dressed, he had a big gold chain on…I was just instantly mesmerised by him.’ 

Sammy, pictured in 2017, told how she was 'completely out of her depth' as a teenager and had no idea how 'dangerous' Hussain would be

Sammy, pictured in 2017, told how she was ‘completely out of her depth’ as a teenager and had no idea how ‘dangerous’ Hussain would be

Sammy, pictured 2017,  escaped her abuser when he was sent to prison in 2001 for a violent offence, but was instrumental in exposing the gang after she approached The Times anonymously with her story

Sammy, pictured 2017,  escaped her abuser when he was sent to prison in 2001 for a violent offence, but was instrumental in exposing the gang after she approached The Times anonymously with her story 

She added: ‘I just thought, “Wow who’s he?”. He made me feel like an adult and I remember as a kid I always wanted to be an adult, I always wanted to be further on in my years than I was and he made me feel that way.’ 

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While she was just 14, Sammy says she appeared even younger when the pair met  and that she quickly started spending more and more time with her abuser. 

‘Things between him and me escalated really quickly,’ she said. 

‘I had a curfew and I was constantly breaking curfew and that’s how my parents started to suspect things, because I was being late and sometimes not even coming home at all.’ 

Sammy was grounded when her parents found out about the relationship, telling how Hussain isolated her from her family by solely blaming Sammy’s father for the family’s concerns. 

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‘What he did was actual very clever,’ she said. ‘He worked out the dynamics in my family, he knew my dad was more strict and my mum was more of a best friend. So what he did was started to turn me more against my dad rather than my mum. 

‘So he would say “Actually your dad doesn’t like me, but your mum likes me, but she’ll never admit it because she’s scared of your dad”.’ 

She went on: ‘I started to go missing quite a lot, not just for days but for months and weeks at a time.’   

She opened up about her experience on Crime+Investigation's Survivors which airs on Monday 19th April at 9pm

She opened up about her experience on Crime+Investigation’s Survivors which airs on Monday 19th April at 9pm

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Hussain was a drug dealer who Sammy says was feared in the area, but as a young and impressionable teen, she had no idea of the potential consequences. 

‘A lot of people feared him and for me where I live and grew up that wasn’t necessarily something I had never heard of’, she said, ‘It didn’t really bother me, it is what it is. You don’t as a kid think about consequences, I just went with the flow.’ 

As well as sexual abuse, Hussain forced Sammy to participate in criminal acts, including driving a stolen car after a post office raid, a burglary, and 20 counts of criminal damage.  

‘I was completely out of my depth’, she said, ‘I didn’t recognise it was dangerous and wrong I thought I’m a teenager having a bit of fun, how bad can things get.’  

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Sammy escaped her abuser when he was sent to prison in 2001 for a violent offence, but was instrumental in exposing the gang after she approached The Times anonymously with her claims, leading to the Jay Inquiry.    

Survivors with Denise Welch premiered on CRIME+INVESTIGATION, with the first episode airing on Monday 19th April at 9pm

How Sammy Woodhouse has fought to protect others from enduring abuse  

Sammy Woodhouse grew up in Rotherham and was groomed by child sex gang leader Arshid Hussain when she was 14 years old.

She was subjected to horrendous abuse including rape and assaults and Hussain also coerced her by threatening to kill her family.

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He also forced her to rob a post office aged 15 and when police raided Hussain’s home later that year they found her in bed with him but failed to arrest him and charged her with possessing a baton.

Hussain also forced her to fight another girl a few months later, for which Ms Woodhouse was later charged with assault.

She missed much of her education and worked as a stripper and model. She eventually had a child by Hussain but fled to keep him away from his family.

After years of abuse she approached The Times anonymously with her claims, leading to the Jay Inquiry which exposed the Rotherham gang and led to the discovery of more than 1,400 victims between 1997 and 2013. Hussain was eventually jailed for 35 years.

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Ms Woodhouse was a teenager when she was groomed by her rapist Arshid Hussain known as 'Mad Ash'

Ms Woodhouse was a teenager when she was groomed by her rapist Arshid Hussain known as ‘Mad Ash’

Ms Woodhouse waived her anonymity on the BBC in 2017.

She has been leading campaigns to change the laws around child sex abuse victims, particularly supporting a bill named after her, Sammy’s Law, that would pardon child sex abuse victims who are coerced into committing crimes.    

The bill was supported by Vera Baird, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, by Alan Billings, the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, and by Simon Bailey, the Chief Constable of the Norfolk Constabulary, among several other chief constables and crime commissioners.

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Last year she slammed Rotherham Council for trying to help Hussain get in contact with the son he fathered by rape.

She said the council should have opposed taking the step to give Hussain access as she fights for a change in the law to deny rapists access to children they have fathered in sickening attacks.

Sammy Woodhouse

Sammy Woodhouse 

‘They should’ve fought for that child,’ she said. ‘What they’ve done is hand my son over on a plate to a rapist.’

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Ms Woodhouse conducts speaking events at schools and elsewhere, explaining to teenagers, the police and social workers how to recognise that someone is being groomed.

She also wrote a book, Just a Child: Britain’s Biggest Child Abuse Scandal Exposed, which was released in April 2018.

In November 2018, over the first three days, more than three hundred thousand people signed a petition by Woodhouse and Labour MP Louise Haigh, which called for the amendment of the Children Act 1989 to ‘ban any male with a child conceived by rape from applying for access/rights’.

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