girl head hands
Prof Alexis Jay's report describes senior council members and police officers ignoring reports of organised abuse.Keirsten Marie/Flickr

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham report is a damning indictment against Rotherham's council and the South Yorkshire Police force, both of which have been struggling to cope with ongoing organised sexual abuse of children, over a period of 16 years.

The report states that 1,400 vulnerable children were sexually abused by grooming gangs in the borough. However, the true scale of the abuse is not known, as 1,400 is merely a "conservative estimate" of the number of victims.

The abusers would repeatedly rape their victims, some just 11 years old, and terrify them into silence by pouring petrol over them and telling them they would be set alight, threatening them with guns, and forcing them to watch "brutally violent rapes" while saying that they would be next.

The report places the blame for the continuing abuse on senior members of the council and South Yorkshire police force.

More than a third of the victims were already known to the local police and council services, because of issues around neglect and child protection. But youth workers' managers would downplay the "seriousness of the problem" when cases of sexual abuse were reported to them.

And when cases were reported to South Yorkshire police, officers "gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt, and failing to act on their abuse as a crime", the report found.

You can download the full 160-page report here.

Members of the key agencies tasked with providing help to youths in Rotherham began a co-ordinated effort to monitor the children known to be at risk of grooming in the early 2000s, and were overwhelmed by the number of cases.

However, their managers provided "little or no support". Senior police officers continued to regard the claims made by youth works regarding sexual abuse to be exaggerated, and "seemed intent on reducing the official numbers of children categorised as CSE".

In 2002, social workers wrote a report detailing the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham, but it was "effectively suppressed" as senior council officials refused to accept the claims being made as truthful.

Further reports were written in 2003 and 2006 detailing the links between the organised sexual abuse, the local drugs trade, guns, and other criminal activity, but they were ignored and not acted upon.

This was in spite of elected council members and senior officers attending seminars which described the abuse suffered in "the most explicit terms", during 2004-05.

The council and police also failed to engage with the Pakistani community in Rotherham, despite the majority of the abusers being described as "Asian" by their victims. Rather, council staff reported being ordered to not identify the ethnic origins of the perpetrators.

Rotherham grooming
(Clockwise from top left) Mohsin Khan, 21, Razwan Razaq, 30, Adil Hussain, 20, Zafran Ramzan, 21, Umar Razaq, 24

Serious concerns remain

Despite improvements Rotherham council and the South Yorkshire police force have made regarding investigating grooming and supporting its victims in the last four years by creating a centralised team, serious problems remain.

The central team's workload is described as "overwhelming" – in May it was investigating 51 cases – and it is not providing enough support for the victims. The situation could deteriorate, as Rotherham's local authority is facing funding cutbacks.

And the abuse is an on-going problem: in 2013, the police received 157 reports of child sexual exploitation.