Attempts to cover-up the involvement of Pakistani men in child sexual exploitation crimes in Rotherham because of political correctness has been a ‘gift to the far-right’, a Government inspector who helped exposed the scandal has said.
Louise Casey, whose damning report last February resulted in Government-appointed commissioners being brought in to run Rotherham Council, said misguided political correctness had unintentionally led to an increase in Islamophobia.
She told a conference in Leeds yesterday: “One of the lessons of Rotherham is by not dealing with what is difficult, you are actually making the situation so much worse.
“Rotherham Council put reputation above all else and swept the hard stuff under the carpet,” she said.
“Where is that reputation now? On the floor in a basement, trying to work out where the ladder back up is. It will take years to recover. Maybe some people did it for a good reason but boy-oh-boy did it backfire big time.”
She said that in an attempt to protect race relations, there had been a failure to acknowledge perpetrators came from the Pakistani community.
“Tensions were raised more and more and more in that town – tensions made worse by political correctness that, to my mind, is a gift to the far right. Islamophobia no doubt increased.
“The vast majority of Muslim people watched their religion and their community brought into such disrepute by these wrongdoers. The good people of Rotherham, including the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population, deserve better than that.”
Speaking in public for the first time about the scandal since she produced her report which found Rotherham Council was ‘in denial’ about the scale of child sexual exploitation, Ms Casey called for nationwide reform of services to protect vulnerable children.
She said her investigations into Rotherham – which followed Professor Alexis Jay revealing at least 1,400 children had been abused in the town between 1997 and 2013 – had left an ‘extraordinary mark upon my soul’.
“Rotherham forces us all to rethink how to protect children,” she said.
“Safeguarding children from harm and protecting them should not be left only to social workers. It is a core responsibility of everyone in public service.
“From the licensing of taxis to houses where children are abused in to the schools they didn’t turn up to – it is about responsibility across the system.”
Ms Casey said she was delighted about the recent convictions of a child grooming gang in the town – but added many offenders have yet to be brought to justice.
“I was euphoric on the day that judgement came out,” she said.
“Finally a tiny crumb of justice had been done. But it is the beginning, not the end.”
She was speaking at the Coming Out Of The Darkness Conference, organised by Adele Gladman and Jayne Senior, two whistle-blowers who spent years trying to expose the scale of child sexual exploitation in the town.
The aim of the event was to discuss how the lessons of the Rotherham scandal could be applied locally and nationally to prevent it happening again in the future.
Also among the speakers was Professor Jay, who said she believed ‘groupthink and wilful blindness’ had allowed abuse to go unchecked.
She said: “One of the saddest aspects is the ruin of these young people’s lives. By the age of 15 or 16, some were discarded by these perpetrators, mostly without long-term support or help. Many became addicted to drink or drugs, some resorted to self-harm. The findings of this report came too late for them.
“Rotherham is not unique in the UK, Europe or the rest of the world. We need to address the problem of demand – this demand is for sex with children.”