Sheffield examines Rotherham child sex abuse report

Professor Alexis Jay
Professor Alexis Jay

Sheffield Council bosses said today they will be going through the Rotherham child sex abuse report with a ‘fine toothcomb’ after it highlighted cases of victims being trafficked to the city.

The council said it has been recognised nationally for its ‘good work’ on child sexual exploitation, but was not complacent about the scale of the problem.

But the council has refused to comment specifically on the tenure of former children’s services boss Sonia Sharp, who worked for Sheffield for four years between 2008 and 2012 after being employed previously in Rotherham from 2005 to 2008.

Dr Sharp has received the backing of her current employers in the Australian state of Victoria, where she is deputy secretary of education.

In a joint statement Sue Fiennes, chair of the Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board, and Jayne Ludlam, Sheffield Council’s executive director for children, young people and families, said: “We take Professor Jay’s report very seriously indeed, and will be going through it with a fine toothcomb, as we do any new information relating to child sexual exploitation.

“It is a horrible and sad fact that child sexual exploitation is a problem everywhere in the country.

“In Sheffield we take the view that we need to tackle these issues head on, and work to combat CSE is a key priority for us.

“We don’t shy away from the problem even though it presents huge challenges. CSE work in Sheffield has been recognised by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary as best practice in this field.

“We are never complacent about the scale of the problem and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We are continually learning and developing our services to ensure we are doing all we can.”

The Jay report included 15 case studies on victims – two of them who made direct reference to Sheffield.

Prof Jay said the small selection of cases that was highlighted represented a ‘fair reflection of what many victims experienced’.

In the first instance, ‘Child B’ was trafficked to Sheffield, as well as Bradford and Leeds, by an older man who had groomed her.

The report also mentioned Child O, who was found in Sheffield on one occasion after previous reports of her wandering Rotherham late at night.

Prof Jay said the inquiry had also heard ‘time and time again’ of children being ‘forced to perform sex acts in taxis and cars when they were being trafficked between towns’.

In January 2008, two men from Sheffield were convicted of sexual offences against young girls they had groomed into ‘exploitative, coercive and possessive’ relationships.