The systematic and unfettered sexual abuse of 1,400 young girls in Rotherham is to be investigated alongside the alleged Westminster VIP paedophile ring, the new chair of the historical child abuse inquiry said today.
|New Zealand High Court |
Judge Lowell Goddard
But the independent inquiry into how the allegations of child sex abuse were dealt with by authorities may last until 2018.
Yesterday a criminal investigation was launched after a damning report found Rotherham Council is 'not fit for purpose' and still 'in denial' about girls as young as 11 being left to be abused by mainly Asian men between 1997 and 2013.
The fear of being branded racist turned the issue of child grooming by Pakistani men into a taboo subject which paralysed the council and police into inaction, according to the report.
Judge Goddard's inquiry will investigate the Rotherham case and also whether public bodies, including governments, charities, the Church and BBC, failed to protect children across Britain.
It was set up last July amid claims a child sex gang operated in Westminster in the 1980s, but has been unable to start because of a series of scandals.
Mrs Justice Goddard said today survivors would be 'at the forefront and the whole centre' of her inquiry, adding she will now travel to the UK to discuss its terms and scope with the Home Secretary.
She told the BBC's Today programme: 'It will be focused on not only the past experience of survivors but also on current situations such as this Rotherham report I am reading about and also about how we protect for the future and make sure these terrible abuses do not occur again.
'The future has to be a huge part of why we are examining the past.'
Mrs May turned to an overseas figure after the inquiry lost its first two chairs over questions about their links with establishment figures.
Police are investigating claims that at least five paedophile rings operating at the heart of Westminster in the 1970s and 1980s were covered up - and the inquiry will look at the same issue.
Labour MP John Mann has submitted an explosive dossier to police naming 22 politicians – including three serving MPs and three serving members of the House of Lords – linked to historical child abuse.
Mann's document also includes the names of 13 ex-ministers, including at least two who are claimed to have gone to ‘abuse parties’ held at Dolphin Square, the luxury riverside estate in Pimlico which has been home to dozens of MPs.
Another dossier compiled by MP Geoffrey Dickens vanished after being sent in 1983 to the then home secretary Leon Brittan.
It named MP Cyril Smith and other suspected establishment figures as involved in child sex abuse.
The abuse scandal in Rotherham is considered one of the worst in Britain's history with experts estimating that 1,400 girls fell into the clutches of paedophiles.
Yesterday's report was written by Louise Casey, director-general for troubled families at the government's Communities Department.
She found the council had a 'deep-rooted' culture of sexism and bullying where it would 'shoot the messenger' and sought to force whistleblowers into silence or pay them off.
Inspectors also found the council 'goes to some lengths to cover up information' and said that children in the town were still at risk of abuse.
A council researcher claimed files detailing failures in tackling abuse in the town were stolen from her office and never recovered.
In October 2014 a Home Affairs Select Committee report called for an urgent investigation into the allegation.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the Home Office should do ‘everything in its power’ to locate the missing files.
|Rotherham town square|
‘The only way to address these concerns is with a full, transparent and urgent investigation.’
The researcher was employed by Rotherham Council between 2000 and 2002 and was working on a Home Office-funded pilot aimed at tackling prostitution.
In April 2002 she submitted information to the Home Office containing severe criticisms of the agencies in Rotherham involved with child sexual exploitation, with the most serious alleging 'indifference' on the part of senior managers.
She claimed someone then accessed her office and removed data relating to the Home Office work. She said there were no signs of a forced entry to the key-coded and locked security doors.
In its report, the committee said it was not the first time files relating to child sexual exploitation were alleged to have disappeared.
The committee added that the council and South Yorkshire Police ignored 'compelling evidence' about the scale of the abuse.
The report said South Yorkshire Police also failed in its role to protect victims, turning a blind eye to their plight and in many cases holding them responsible.
Police were said to be aware that a victim was 'raped with a broken bottle' and some girls were 'ordered to kiss perpetrators' feet at gun point' but never took any action.
In one case an officer told a victim: 'Don't worry- you aren't the first girl to be raped by XX and you won't be the last'.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, left, quit as chairman of the inquiry after questions were raised about her brother sitting in the Cabinet in the 1980s
Fiona Woolf,right, resigned over her links to former home secretary Leon Brittan
The council cabinet was forced to resign yesterday after the shocking report laid bare their failings.
Now its disgraced former Labour leadership face the threat of serious criminal charges over claims in the report that evidence of abuse was deliberately obscured over a number of years.
The National Crime Agency told MailOnline any probe by Lowell Goddard's inquiry would not slow their criminal investigation.
Many of the abuse victims, often from children's homes or troubled backgrounds, were plied with alcohol and drugs before being used for sex or pimped to others.
'Almost all' of the perpetrators are believed to be part of predatory Pakistani gangs, with victims claiming they were at times 'raped once a day' for many years, an inquiry by Professor Alexis Jay found last year.
In the hard-hitting report, she highlighted how serving councillors were still querying the mathematics behind the figure of abuse victims, with officials complaining the authority shouldn't 'roll over and accept the report'.
Branding its culture one of 'bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced political correctness', she said the authority – which in the past eight years has never had fewer than 50 Labour members – had a 'deep-rooted' culture of 'suppressing bad news' and 'goes to some length to cover up information and to silence whistleblowers'.
|Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles announced new|
elections to replace the council's 'wholly dysfunctional' political leadership
One former police officer said: 'They were running scared of the race issue… there is no doubt that in Rotherham, this has been a problem with Pakistani men for years and years. People were scared of being called racist.'
|Girls like Katie were among 1,400|
girls abused over 16 years
Mr Pickles will send in five commissioners to 'provide new leadership', taking over the role of the 'current wholly dysfunctional cabinet'. The commissioners will appoint the council's chief executive and other senior officials.
The controversy that followed the publication of the Jay Report led to Rotherham council leader Roger Stone leaving his post.
The most high profile resignation was that of South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who was the Rotherham councillor overseeing children's services between 2005 and 2010.
Both men refused to be interviewed by Louise Casey.
ROTHERHAM CHILD ABUSE: HOW SCANDAL UNFOLDED OVER TWO DECADES
Early to mid 1990s
According to the Jay Report, community workers come across examples of child sexual exploitation and find children under the care of the local authority are at risk of being targeted.
The 'Risky Business' youth project is set up to work with people between the ages of 11 and 25 in Rotherham, amid concerns young people are being abused through prostitution.
Youth workers start to identify vulnerable girls and young women on Rotherham's streets and refer them to children's social care.
|Community workers first came across examples of child sexual exploitation|
in Rotherham in the mid-1990s
A small group of professionals from key agencies meet children at risk of, or involved in, child sexual exploitation but their work is not properly supported, according to the Jay report.
Senior police and social workers think the extent of the issue is being exaggerated.
A Home Office draft report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham criticises agencies and says there is a 'high prevalence of young women being coerced and abused through prostitution'.
Police and senior officers at the council are unhappy with the report, claiming some facts are either exaggerated or made up. The report's author does not complete her work.
A report by strategic drugs analyst Dr Angie Heal, commissioned by South Yorkshire Police, finds there are a 'significant number of girls and some boys who are being sexually exploited' in Rotherham.
The Sexual Exploitation Forum is set up, holding monthly meetings to discuss cases of children who are being sexually exploited or are at risk.
Rotherham Council sets up a new department of children and young people's services, with Councillor Shaun Wright appointed cabinet member for the department.
An investigation into the grooming and sexual abuse of young boys identifies more than 70 alleged victims. A man is convicted of offences against 10 children.
Operation Central is set up to investigate men believed to be involved in child sexual exploitation.
Ofsted rates Rotherham's children's services as 'inadequate'. Councillor Wright resigns from his council cabinet post in the wake of the report.
Shaun Wright was elected onto Rotherham council in the early 2000s and was later elected as Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire
The minister of state for young people and families serves the council with an improvement notice for its children's safeguarding services.
Five men given lengthy jail terms after they are found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
The local Safeguarding Children Board sets up a child sexual exploitation sub group.
The Times publishes an investigation revealing that a confidential police report had warned thousands of child sexual exploitation crimes were being committed in South Yorkshire by networks of Asian men.
The newspaper also reports that agencies in the town had extensive knowledge of such crimes for decades. South Yorkshire Police refutes claims in article.
Rotherham Borough Council, South Yorkshire Police and other agencies set up a Child Sexual Exploitation team.
Home Affairs Select Committee tells force's chief constable to 'get a grip' on the issue.
Shaun Wright wins election to become South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. He states that tackling child sexual exploitation is one of his priorities.
The chief executive of the council, Martin Kimber, appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions about the lack of prosecutions.
Four women sue the council for failing to protect them when they were children.
The council announces it is commissioning an independent inquiry.
Professor Alexis Jay publishes commissioned report into child abuse in Rotherham, revealing more than 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking between 1997 and 2013.
Rotherham Borough Council leader Roger Stone steps down with immediate effect. Mr Wright issues a statement saying he will stay in his job as PCC, despite calls for him to stand down.
Home Secretary Theresa May backs calls for Mr Wright to step down and his deputy PCC Tracey Cheetham announces she is resigning because she is 'unable to continue' in her role.
Professor Alexis Jay published report into child abuse in Rotherham, revealing more than 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking.
Mr Wright resigns.
The Labour Party suspends four of its members pending an investigation: former leader of the council Roger Stone, ex-deputy council leader, Jahangir Akhtar, Gwendoline Russell, and Shaukat Ali.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission announces ten police officers mentioned in the Jay Report are under investigation
National Crime Agency (NCA) begins investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham
Devastating report is published by Louise Casey.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announces new elections in 2016 to replace Rotherham Council's 'wholly dysfunctional' political leadership.