X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week. If you receive it, you’ll also find your subscriber number at the top of our weekly highlights email.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.spectator.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050. If you’ve only just subscribed, you may not yet have been issued with a subscriber number. In this case you can use the temporary web ID number, included in your email order confirmation.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

If you have any difficulties creating an account or logging in please take a look at our FAQs page.

Coffee House

How Parliament ignored sex abuse allegations

1 September 2014

2:19 PM

1 September 2014

2:19 PM

Sexual exploitation of a single child is a despicable crime, but the whole country is in shock at the industrial scale of the abuse that has been revealed in Rotherham and other towns and cities. The tragedy of the abuse is made all the worse by the possibility that—with swift and decisive action—these evil and predatory individuals and gangs could have been brought to justice.

What makes this more devastating is that many people did know: heroic groups acting on behalf of victims such as PACE (Parents Against Child Exploitation, formed in 1996 as the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping) brought to public attention disturbing signs of systematic grooming in towns like Oldham, Blackburn and, of course, Rotherham. Despite the progress made in the explicit criminalisation of abuse in the 2003 Sexual Offences Act, the evidence suggested this appalling trade was growing.

As the then Chair of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee I became aware of the vulnerability of children to predatory males whilst conducting an inquiry into children in care. My subsequent conversations with the police astonished me. I was repeatedly told this was a ‘difficult’ area as children were reluctant to give evidence against their abusers and other methods of detection, such as surveillance, were ‘too expensive’. To draw attention to this I secured a Westminster Hall Debate on Child Prostitution in 2009. My experience was one that many of my colleagues have found depressingly familiar: supportive words from ministers followed by very little action. But this is nothing compared to what the victims themselves went through. A combination of incompetence and a lack of joined-up public policy allowed far too many to slip through the nets of the services designed to protect them.

In far too many cases victims were simply not believed, as shown in Rotherham where the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary found that the police spent a ‘great deal of time’ trying to ‘disprove’ victims’ testimony instead of giving them the help they desperately needed. Worse still, we can never know how many victims, having seen the callous disregard for others who came forward, will never speak up. The fact remains – the legislative progress made in 2003 notwithstanding – that successive authorities at all levels have failed to protect thousands of children from the most horrific forms of abuse.

[Alt-Text]


The people who have so devastatingly let these children down should rightly be held to account, but a fixation on high-level sackings risks us taking our eye off the real goal: ensuring this kind of horrific abuse cannot happen again. To do so requires us to look beyond legislation and recrimination and into ensuring we seriously tackle the key underlying issues. So, what should we do?

Firstly, we must take an approach that is cross-departmental and across the whole of the UK. Too often, the state has lost track of victims of abuse simply because they have been moved across the country by the gangs that prey on them. In the 21st century, where data can be shared with (or even without) a click of a button, moving across Europe should be no obstacle to justice, let alone moving across the Pennines.

The police are in the unique position of being the authority who take forward charges and report these to the media. They can easily negate their own role and point the finger – however subtly – at others. As we saw with Peter Connelly (‘Baby P’)’s tragic death, when you control the media message it’s easy to claim that it was the social workers who were at fault and therefore ‘it was nothing to do with us, guv’.

The police need to show more leadership—and also help to fund Safeguarding Children’s Boards as a matter of course—right across the country. More senior police officers need to take the time to work with senior local government figures – officers and members – to work consistently to understand the real challenges that are hidden in the statistics.

Finally, we must foster a culture in which victims can seek help with confidence in the knowledge that they will be treated with the dignity and care that they deserve. They cannot be left with the belief that nobody can help them or worse that the blame for their situation lies with themselves that they are somehow at fault.

In this we are, I hope, moving in the right direction, but as a society we have so much further to go.

Barry Sheerman is MP for Huddersfield.

Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.


Show comments
Close