Our report chronicles a regime of predatory sexual abuse (including racist sexual abuse) since it opened and began accepting women and families in 2002. It brings together the many allegations that have been reported to us, with other reports that have appeared in the media. Many of the reports come from All African Women’s Group members some of whom have been centrally involved in protests including successive hunger strikes .
Submitted to the Home Affairs Committee on 9 September. We have received no substantial reply so far.
The Report by Dr Alexis Jay issued in August 2014, raises more questions than it answers. Unless these questions are asked and answered now, this will amount to a further cover up.
The Report says that over 1,400 girls suffered multiple crimes including: rape, child abduction, threats with guns, being given Class A drugs and alcohol, witness intimidation such as serious injury to themselves and other members of their families. The Report says no councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on, following explicit reports by Risky Business to council meetings in 2004 and 2005 naming 50 perpetrators, including names of taxi firms, individual taxi drivers, and takeaways, and addresses where rape took place, yet no concerted action followed for years. Some interviewees told the Report writer they suspected family or business connections with taxi firms, takeaways and hotels where the girls were raped (as Risky Business explicitly named in their reports to Council meetings in 2004 & 5), but police said there was no evidence of this.
Prostitution has been used as an excuse to “blame” these rape victims as involved in “prostitution”, “a lifestyle choice”, being “not blameless”, “undeserving”. Many of these girls were well under 14 when the attacks started, they were victims of the crimes of rape and of paying to have sex with a child. Race and ethnicity were used as an excuse to justify the lack of action against the perpetrators. This presumes that the Pakistani community would stand with rapists rather than victims, which is a blatant piece of racism on the part of the police, the council, the MPs and social services. The Asian community was outraged at the perpetrators and the police and politicians’ protection of the perpetrators. It also presumes that there were no Asian victims; Asian women’s organisations have reported that this is not the case.
The gang rape of children was not investigated and victims were dismissed and even criminalised. This amounts to aiding and abetting rape and all the other violent crimes exposed in this report, which are going on not only in S Yorkshire but all over the UK.
Questions rape survivors and the public want answers to. Given the circumstances described in this report and what has come out from previous reports, it beggars belief that there has been no examination of possible connections, financial or otherwise, between the perpetrators and the police, politicians and social workers who covered for them. Not only all the officers, starting at the top, but all the local councillors and MPs (former MP for the area Denis MacShane was later jailed for fiddling his expenses) and the Home Office must be questioned, and charges brought against those who shielded, enabled, encouraged, organised, profited from or got promoted as a result of this violence against children and their families.
- Sex with a child under 13 is rape, there can be no defence of consent. Paying for sex with a child under 16 is illegal.
Why are officers who claimed 12-year-old girls were compliant and consenting to sex with adult men still in the police force? Do they not know what a crime is? Do they not know the difference between the rape of children and sex between consenting adults? Do they not know that sex with a child is rape, and paying children for sex is not prostitution or a lifestyle choice, but rape? Why is the public paying police as law enforcers when they don’t apply the law?
- Police aided and abetted the widespread rape of children. This is a crime. Why have no officers been arrested and prosecuted for this? The Select Committee heard evidence in private from a Home Office researcher who feared for her life after two police officers visited her and threatened to pass her name to the groomers. Who were these officers and whose orders were they acting on?
- What other illegality are they engaged in or protecting?
- How was other reported rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and other child abuse dealt with while this was going on? How many rapes were no crimed? How many victims were pressurized into withdrawing or retracting their allegations? How many were even prosecuted for reporting rape on the pretext that they were lying?
- What are the police doing instead of protecting the public from rape, child abuse and murder?
- Victims were themselves charged and prosecuted. Loved ones who tried to protect them were dismissed and even arrested.
Who are the officers who arrested the girls and their loved ones instead of their perpetrators? Will they be arrested and prosecuted for perverting the course of justice?
- Police provided no protection for the girls who came forward. Even worse they seem to have told the perpetrators about them.
Which police officers leaked to a perpetrator that one girl was about to make a statement about him having broken her brother’s legs? How else would he know that his victim was at that moment in the police station? This information enabled him to text her that he had abducted her 11 year old sister in order to intimidate her into not reporting. Why wasn’t he prosecuted for intimidating a witness – a serious crime?
- Dr Jay’s report says police disbelieved the first report as exaggerated: Were police asked why they disbelieved it? Were they asked to look into it anyway? Did they say they disbelieved it in order to ignore it?
- Why were police on the side of the criminals rather than their victims? Is it just prejudice against children, especially those in care? Or did they have something to gain?
What is the relationship between the officers and these criminals? What did the police have to gain by not arresting them? Were officers paid or afforded favours to keep quiet about this? A charity named one officer in written evidence to the Select Committee who was taking bribes from groomers in return for information. Is he being investigated? Are others? Were officers who allowed these rapes to continue promoted? How many?
- What is the connection of the officers, both those in charge or those on the ground, with the perpetrators? Was money passing hands?
- Some perpetrators were given cautions – meaning they admitted their crimes. Whose decision was it to give perpetrators a caution?
- Why have they not been rearrested for subsequent crimes and given a more appropriate punishment? Are the police claiming they have not done anything criminal since they were cautioned?
- Which of the so called ‘ring leaders’ have since been prosecuted and for what?
- Are those not deemed to be ‘ring leaders’ allowed to carry on with impunity or will they be prosecuted as well?
- Who allowed police and children’s services to dramatically reduce the number of girls being monitored, and why was nobody challenged about the tiny numbers of girls being identified as at risk of sexual exploitation?
- Have the ‘senior investigating police’ been asked to justify their ‘adamant’ refusal to link the alleged ‘honour killing’ of Child S with what they considered ‘totally unrelated …. other local violence against girls’? Who were the men she was said to have had sex with? Were they connected to the grooming of her sister or any of the other girls?
- Why didn’t Risky Business go public and alert the Home Office or a government body or go to the media to blow the racket open?
- The presumption is that the Asian community would stand with rapists against their victims, which is a blatant piece of racism. Asian women’s organisations have said that Asian girls were also victims. How many? Did any come forward and were they treated any better than the white victims? Is this being investigated now?
- The presumption that criminals who are Asian are immune is not credible. How many Asian men were stopped and searched, much of it illegally, over this period?
- How much are senior officers determining the priorities for investigation of suspected crimes of their juniors and monitoring what was being done?
- Were any police whistleblowers punished or sacked for objecting to this cover up of illegality?
- Why didn’t the police know the difference between rape, which is a crime, and prostitution among consenting adults which is not? How widespread is this gross ignorance among police forces?
Crown Prosecution Service
- The Report says that the employees of the CPS dealing with CSE before 2010 have now retired. Why should this prevent an investigation? Will they be arrested and questioned?
- Why are prosecutors who protect criminals allowed to retire on a pension instead of a jail sentence? Will the connection between CPS and perpetrators, direct or indirect, be scrutinised now?
- CPS closed many of the cases because ‘they used rape myths against the victims’. What is being done about this now? Will these cases be re-opened?
- Why did it take nine months in one case (as the Report says) for the CPS to make a decision to take no further action against one of the perpetrators? Will this case be re-opened now?
Police and Crime Commissioner
- He was aware of the scale of rape and other crime from at least 2005 as the Lead Member for Children and Young People (2005-2010).Why isn’t former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright being investigated for criminal activities?
Rotherham council – a racket/mafia?
The Report says no councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on. Risky Business reported on suspected family or business connections between politicians and perpetrators.
- The report refers to rumours that some councillors are related to some of the perpetrators. That is easy to establish. Which ones?
- The media has highlighted that ex Deputy Leader Jahangir Akhtar’s cousin was named in Jay’s report as a ‘boyfriend’ of up to 18 underage abuse victims. His son Tanveer is a constable serving in South Yorkshire Police. Cllr Shankat Asli has a relative serving 22 years in prison for flooding the area with ecstasy.
Are there others? What is the connection between councillors and perpetrators? Was money passing hands?
- Did the police investigate these allegations? Is this being investigated now?
- Why were no minutes kept in 2005, when the present council leader [Roger Stone] chaired a group to ‘take forward’ the above issues raised by Risky Business? Is there no legal requirement to keep minutes of council meetings? Is he being investigated now?
- Council Leader in 2006 Roger Stone told a Tory councillor not to publicly raise concerns raised by his constituents about child exploitation, and that they were being dealt with by police. He has now resigned.Will his pension be withdrawn? Will he be investigated?
- How can care workers not intervene and stop this mass rape? Isn’t the public paying them to care? Why didn’t they blow the whistle, for example say publicly that the refusal of police to prosecute sexual abuse of girls in their care is making their job impossible?
- Why are social workers now not demanding the prosecution of the rapists and the professionals who covered for them?
- Some girls have complained that their babies have been taken into care.Why are social services punitively removing babies from young vulnerable women rather than offering them the support and resources they need to care for their children?
- Why when the HO was informed did no one take any action?
There are many big children’s charities in England: ChildLine, Barnardos, Save the Children, Children’s Society, National Children’s Bureau, Children in Need –
- Did they know? If not, why not? If yes, what did they do?If they didn’t do anything, why not?
We believe the UK government is flouting its obligations under CEDAW, and future obligations under the Istanbul Convention in relation to Violence Against Women.
1. Refusal to prosecute rapists including violent partners
“In the 12 months to March 2013 there were about 10,000 recorded rapes of adults in England and Wales, and about 6,000 recorded rapes of children.
“Only 1,820 (18%) of those recorded rape allegations led to a ‘sanction detection’ in which an offender was charged or cautioned for the offence, and 1,423 (12%) of cases were ‘no crimed’1.”
It is disingenuous of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to claim a 60% conviction rate – they are only looking at the cases taken to court. The majority of cases are closed either by police or CPS without ever being taken to court, resulting in a 6.7% conviction rate of reported rapes. (If unreported rapes, the overwhelming majority, were taken into account, the conviction rate would be even lower.)
Recently, public shock at media headlines exposing serial rapists left unprosecuted for decades, have added to the pressure put by survivors and their organisations on the prosecuting authorities to change. They were found to have been dismissive and prejudiced, even threatening rape victims with prosecution to shut them up. Young girls in particular, raped by celebrities such as Jimmy Savile, or by groups of adult men, in many towns and cities, such as Oxford and Rochdale were treated appallingly by police, social services and the CPS. Care homes, churches and public schools have been exposed for harbouring sex offenders among their staff, who abused their position of authority, raping girls and boys for years with impunity. This has been acknowledged in the national media as the authorities’ “widespread complicity in sexual abuse2“.
What is being done to change this?
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has investigated London’s specialist Sapphire rape units nine times in seven years – that is 19 officers disciplined, three dismissed, one imprisoned for fraudulently closing rape cases and another under investigation.
Last February an IPCC report revealed the Southwark (London) police policy to press women to withdraw or retract rape allegations. This “local standard operating procedure”, authorised by senior officers, increased the number of incidents that were classified as “no crime” and therefore increased the sanction detection rates for the unit by 25%-30%3.
This was also policy in five other London boroughs4.
In November, the Public Administration Select Committee heard evidence from a police whistleblower PC James Patrick, who exposed widespread police pressure on women to retract. Like rapists, they targeted the most vulnerable victims.
The IPCC further revealed that two senior officers involved in the case of serial sex offender Kirk Reid5 (thought to have assaulted between 80 and 100 women) were promoted, rather than disciplined6 . In our own case, taken to the IPPC and then to court by a girl raped in Southwark when she was 15 years old, the police commander who had prioritised car crime over rape investigations was also promoted (more details below).
In 2009 and 2012 we met the heads of Sapphire. We demanded they stop promoting bad officers as this set the tone for rape investigations and discouraged those officers who wanted to do a good job. We also opposed their proposal to prosecute rapists for offences other than rape and sexual assault – a way of downgrading sexual violence while using the reports of distressed victims to gather intelligence on unrelated matters.
Since more than half the rapes reported in London are by partners or ex-partners, we highlighted the police separation of rape from domestic violence as a major obstacle to getting convictions. Different units deal with rape and domestic violence, so the full picture of the violence suffered by the majority of victims remains hidden – as a result cases are dropped and prosecutions fail.
Two women a week are killed by partners or ex-partners. Despite police refusal to act in at least 50 murders investigated by the IPCC over six years, only one police officer has lost his job for negligence.
The 6 month time limit for bringing charges of common assault is routinely used by police and CPS not to prosecute domestic violence attackers. This limit should be dropped, but also charges of aggravated assault or grievous bodily harm rather than just common assault should be used more often in domestic violence cases. That they are not reflects the sexism, laziness and incompetence of the authorities in gathering relevant evidence such as medical records and witness statements, and providing adequate protection to the victim. We are working with a local woman left disabled after years of domestic violence who is taking legal action on this very point. She speaks for thousands.
Like many in positions of power, the police seem to resent accountability. They have responded to the demands of survivors and campaigners like ourselves by improving their PR rather than their performance, and drawing in the voluntary sector. Most rape service organisations (statutory or voluntary) are now funded by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, or the police. Not surprisingly they have become less critical, repeating the police mantra that ‘things have improved’ even in the face of much evidence of a worsening situation. How can they be trusted to be independent when their funding is not?
Recent research by Professor Betsy Stanko, Head of the Strategy, Research and Analysis Unit, Strategy and Improvement Department, Directorate of Resources at the Metropolitan Police, documents that women are targeted for rape who are from vulnerable sectors of society, although there are sectors she has overlooked. Stanko acknowledges that girls under 16, women raped by partners, those with mental health problems and those who were drinking are among the most commonly raped and least likely to get justice. In our experience race, immigration status and nationality also make women targets for violence and are used by police and CPS to deny justice to the victims. Those of us who are women of colour and have been attacked have experienced:
• police going after our Black partner or brother, rather than the white man reported as violent, sometimes a racist neighbour;
• racist personal comments from the police such as ‘why don’t you do your hair nicer?’;
• questions about our immigration status; one woman was wrongly accused of having a false identity;
• police suspecting the rape victim is lying, involved in crime, or has some suspicious motive other than trying to bring her attacker to justice.
Ineffective CPS prosecutors and biased judges give the appearance that the defence has too many rights; but it is the prosecutors and the judges who need to protect witnesses from irrelevant and cruel questioning, which is standard practice in rape trials. For example, several women in our network raped in their teens were accused in court of making it up to seek attention because their father had recently passed away. Others who were victims of domestic violence had their reports of violence used against them in court because the police had not acted on them or because the unprotected victim had withdrawn for fear of repercussions. All this ought to have been stopped – it was aimed only at discrediting the victim implying she is unreliable or liable to make things up. But CPS and judges routinely allow irrelevant “evidence” to be brought up or pursued beyond any reasonable limit.
Police must stop promoting bad officers as this sets the tone for rape investigations and discourages those officers who want to do a good job. More robust punishment is needed against officers who don’t implement the law: they should be taken off rape investigations, sacked and/or prosecuted if they break the law. If they are not held to account, nothing will change.
End the Metropolitan Police strategy of prosecuting rapists for offences other than rape and sexual assault – a way of downgrading sexual violence while using the reports of distressed victims to gather intelligence on unrelated matters.
The police must end their separation of rape from domestic violence. Domestic rape and sexual assault should be investigated as one case and all charges brought to bear.
Prosecutors and judges must protect witnesses from irrelevant and cruel questioning by the defence. This is their job and responsibility; if they exercised it more often, defence lawyers would soon learn that new boundaries for cross examination have been set.
End the 6 month time limit for bringing charges of common assault in cases of domestic violence; it is routinely used not to prosecute violent partners and ex-partners, and it enables sexist or lazy police to drag their feet during investigations until it is too late to bring charges.
Apply charges of aggravated assault or grievous bodily harm more often in domestic violence incidents.
2. The law continues to allow irrelevant sexual history questioning
In 1997-99 we campaigned for a ban on victims being questioned on their sexual history with men other than the accused. How many people a woman may have had sex with or what kind of sex she had with them is not relevant to whether or not she consented to sex with the accused. The new law did not make a distinction between sex with the accused and sex with others. And it did not ban sexual history questions if the man ‘believed’ the woman consented. Given that this is the most common defence (except for the rare cases where the identity of the accused is in doubt), the protection afforded to victims is more apparent than real as judges continue to allow irrelevant and highly prejudicial questioning.
Recommendation: Don’t allow the defence to ask sexual history questions on the pretext that the man ‘believed’ the woman consented.
3. False allegations or miscarriages of justice?
Victims who retract allegations can face prosecution and the UK is particularly punitive compared to other countries. Layla Ibrahim and Gail Sherwood were both prosecuted in 2010 (as were at least 30 others). Both said they were pressed to retract under threat of prosecution. One did retract, the other refused. Both were imprisoned.
We have been campaigning for seven years against prosecution of women reporting rape or sexual assault. 27 organisations signed our 2011 letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He responded with guidance: the CPS should not routinely prosecute women with mental illness, girls under 18 or victims of domestic violence. But he refused to acknowledge that biased and negligent investigations are resulting in jail for rape victims rather than rapists.
• “Sarah” was jailed in 2010 after reporting her husband, despite the police and CPS knowing that he had raped her. She retracted her claim under pressure from him and his family – the authorities then prosecuted her for making a “false retraction”. After a public outcry her sentence was quashed but not her conviction – she, not her violent husband, has the criminal record. She has applied to the European Court of Human Rights to overturn her conviction.
• A teenager who came to WAR in 2012 faced prosecution because forensic tests did not corroborate her account. Her formal complaint resulted in reinvestigation by another force – new tests found semen where the first police team claimed there was none; charges against her were withdrawn, the rape prosecution was reinstated and the rapist was jailed for five years. Had she not come to us, she would have been prosecuted and even jailed.
• Another young woman we helped was put on trial in 2013 for a so-called false report of rape. The case was thrown out by the Crown Court Judge, who expressed outrage at the lack of evidence against her. She hadn’t even reported rape, only that she awoke in bed with a soldier in a hotel after she suspected she had been drugged to the point where she did not know what happened to her and whether she had been assaulted. The CPS took the case to Appeal, wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money, where it was thrown out again.
This malicious prosecution directly contradicts a police advice leaflet for victims, which says: ‘You can’t remember what happened to you so how can you tell us? This situation does happen. If you or anyone you know are worried or anxious and you think something may have happened to you, you can go to any police station.’
WAR did collaborative research7 with Lisa Avalos, Law Professor at the University of Arkansas, comparing prosecutions of women for alleged lying in the US and UK. We documented three US cases where women were accused of lying about rape and prosecuted – their rapists were later identified and brought to justice, vindicating the women.
Prosecuting women for false allegations distorts the priorities of the police and CPS – they are constantly suspicious that a woman may be lying and therefore less likely to conduct a thorough investigation of the original rape complaint. Prof. Avalos has called for UK police to implement the IACP Guidelines for investigating rape.
Women who do not report attacks are increasingly telling us they worried about being disbelieved but also about being prosecuted instead of their attacker. So while police publicly claim they want victims to come forward, they discourage them from doing so and even punish those who do.
Stop prosecuting women accused of lying about rape.
Police to carry out a thorough investigation into every report of rape.
4. Women are unable to report domestic violence to police or doctors for fear of social services taking their children from them
Domestic violence is commonly used to take children away from their mothers, even if the violence is in the past and the violent partner is no longer a threat. The charity Family Rights Group (FRG), has said: “Our data tells us … that the state’s way of dealing with domestic violence is often to end up with a child being made subject to child protection plans.” The FRG report documents8 that domestic violence – not parental mental illness, drugs or alcohol – is now the main reason children are taken from their mothers.
Similarly the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services (AIMS) said in 2013 evidence to NICE for draft guidance on Domestic Violence that “admissions of domestic violence, past and present, result in an automatic referral to social services . . .” In AIMS’ letter to the Dept of Health’s Sir Liam Donaldson in 2007, they said “Ironically, the basic, simple help or real support families would like, is unavailable because resources are lacking, and that is not the focus of social work activity . . . Women who are suffering domestic violence are continuing to conceal it . . . Since we have seen cases of babies removed from such women, even after they have left their violent partners and are coping well, we are not surprised.”
Many organisations agree that punitive social workers are preventing women from reporting DV to police or to doctors for fear of losing their children. Social workers don’t seem to care that to separate a child from her or his mother is violence against the child as well as the mother with lifelong consequences for the child. We call this forced separation of child from mother STATE CHILD ABUSE.
This sadistic punishing of victims for the violence they suffered puts both child and mother in danger. If mothers cannot report attacks for fear of losing their children, they will not be able to get out of the situation and the life-threatening torture will continue.
Stop using domestic violence as a reason to take children from their mothers.
Prioritise the rights of the child to stay with the mother or extended family and halt the rush to adoption by strangers.
Give mothers the help and support they need in order to keep their children, rather than take a punitive approach.
5. Legal Aid reform is preventing women holding the authorities to account
The cuts in legal aid remove access to legal representation for everyone with low or modest income. In response to the cuts and the introduction of competitive tendering the best law firms are closing.
For years the police had immunity from being sued [civil] for negligent investigations. However, under the Human Rights Act, rape victims are beginning to take the police and CPS to court for failure to protect them from rape, domestic violence, trafficking and domestic slavery. WAR supported several such cases which will be no longer possible due to legal aid cuts. For example, in 2013 in a landmark human rights case, the daughter of a Women Against Rape volunteer won compensation from the police, following seven years of campaigning, after Southwark Sapphire lost evidence of the rape. The rapist was acquitted; we later learned he had been accused of another rape. A damning IPCC report found that all Sapphire detectives had been transferred, to prioritise motor crime over rape. Four junior officers were disciplined. But the commander who set the policy refused to be interviewed by the IPCC and went on to the National Centre for Policing Excellence.
Similarly, two victims of serial rapist John Warboys have won the right to compensation under the Act for injury they suffered from the police refusal to investigate.
Victims of rape will now be denied legal aid to get a decision judicially reviewed if a prosecution is prematurely closed.
Victims of domestic violence who didn’t report to the violence to the police or their doctor, or stay in a refuge, or have a protective injunction will also be denied legal aid.
Recommendation: Stop cuts to Legal Aid and lower the savings limit so that more people can get it.
6. Welfare Reform – massive cuts are closing our escape routes out of violence
Women, and particularly mothers, depend on welfare benefits to escape from violence as they allow for basic survival and time for recovery – for the mother as well as the traumatised children who need their mother’s presence and reassurance. Government “welfare reform” has slashed benefits, trapping women and children with violent men, and impoverishing women and children who do escape.
• Mothers of children over age five, and single women, are allowed only a three-month respite from job seeking conditions, and are sanctioned with a cut in benefit if they miss appointments.
• Crisis Loans and the Social Fund have been abolished. Many women relied on such funds to set up a new home. Local councils refuse many applications for cash help as these are discretionary.
• Traumatised rape survivors and refugee women recovering from appalling injuries, are found “fit to work” by Atos, the company in charge of applying the work capability test on those who apply for sickness benefit.
• The Benefit Cap limits a family’s total benefits to £500 a week (including housing benefit and child benefit). Mothers and children are being left with nothing after rent is paid. Rents, especially in London, are extortionate even for social housing. As a result thousands of families have already been forced out of London, away from relatives and other protective networks.
A legal challenge was brought by a number of single mother families, two of them fleeing domestic violence. Their solicitor Rebekah Carrier described the Cap as “catastrophic, cruel and arbitrary” and WAR petitioned to end it. An Early Day Motion is circulating among Members of Parliament. The Children’s Society said that 2/3 of those who will be affected are children. Despite all this, the court ruled that the Benefit Cap was legal. The legal challenge is now being taken to the Supreme Court.
Families are being left with no money for food or heating (emergency payments from the local authority are discretionary and short-term) – this in itself is a justification for children to be taken into care. Many refuges and hostels are not exempt from the Cap, so will not accept women unable to pay their high rents.
Single women escaping domestic violence are also hit by the Benefit Cap, which is £350 for a single person. As a result, there is immense pressure to stay with or return to violent men despite the risk of being injured or even murdered.
Recommendation: End the benefit cap and other welfare reform as it harms victims of violence.
7. Criminalisation of sex workers and clients make women more vulnerable to violence
We strongly oppose the blurring of the distinction between consenting sex and rape. It allows for silencing and manipulation of so called victims by people in authority who have their own political agendas.
We oppose the characterisation of sex work as violence against women. It assumes that sex workers cannot tell the difference between rape and consenting sex, and that someone else is better qualified to say what ‘protection’ they need. Criminalisation flies in the face of the anti-rape movement fighting for every woman’s right to determine what she consents to.
In December, over 200 police officers in riot gear accompanied by the media raided sex workers’ flats in Soho, London. The police action has been criticised by sex workers and local people, including the parish priest as unfair, dangerous and unlawful. While the police originally claimed they were acting to protect vulnerable women from rape and trafficking (one of whom they forced into the street in just her underwear), they later admitted that they found no victims of rape or trafficking. Their justification then changed to clamping down on harbouring stolen goods.
Actor Rupert Everett described the raid and flat closures as a ‘land grab’ for a multi-million pound development to gentrify the area.
How can police so short of officers to thoroughly investigate the rapes, sexual assaults and domestic violence that are reported to them, afford to put huge resources into cracking down on sex between consenting adults? Why are they acting for property developers rather than rape victims?
Senior police officers have publicly stated that: “[police] operations to tackle the trade are ‘counterproductive’ and likely to put the lives of women at risk9.”
According to the English Collective of Prostitutes, which supported the women throughout the raids and legal actions, Soho is the safest place in London for sex workers, in part because the women have the support of the local community. Evidence shows it is 10 times safer to work in premises than on the street, especially when working with another woman present10.
Why are the police assuming these sex workers are trafficked? Anti-trafficking enforcement actions have been shown to be punitive to victims, leading to deportation back to their country of origin. They have acted as immigration controls dressed up as safety measures. If the authorities want to stop trafficking, as we do, they need to prosecute genuine traffickers, while safeguarding and supporting victims. The “no recourse to public funds” rule works against victims who need emergency accommodation and money to live on.
We defended a victim of rape in civil war in Uganda who was made to have sex with men by the woman who brought her to the UK, who kept the money they paid. Evidence provided by Freedom from Torture and ourselves about the impact of what this victim had endured in Uganda was used by the immigration authorities against her. UKBA claimed that she was traumatised by the violence in Uganda not by the violence in the UK. So although her account of trafficking was accepted, she was considered no longer a victim of it. As a result her case to remain in the UK was refused on those grounds and she is still fighting for asylum.
As a member of the Safety First Coalition, set up after the murders of five sex workers in Ipswich, we oppose the criminalisation of clients. By driving prostitution further underground it deters women from reporting rapists and other violent men. Sex workers say the police must go after the men they have reported, not those they have not.
We have met representatives of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective and they have shown us evidence that sex workers are safer since prostitution was decriminalised there. It is galling that the UK government had not been interested in such evidence, preferring to press ahead with criminalisation.
The decriminalisation of prostitution for safety’s sake.
An end to raids, arrests and prosecutions of sex workers which all push women into danger.
An end to the use of trafficking legislation to arrest and deport immigrant sex workers rather than protect genuine victims.
This evidence was previously submitted to the Joint Select Human Rights Committee Inquiry into Violence Against Women and Girls (UK)
1. “Police ‘culture of disbelief’ over rape claims alarms official monitoring group”, Alan Travis, The Guardian, 31 January 2014.
2. The Guardian editorial, 14 February 2014.
4. “Police failed to investigate sex attacks across six London boroughs A man accused of rape was allowed to walk free and kill two children as a result of a policy to manipulate crime statistics.” Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, 26 February 2013. www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/feb/26/police-failed-investigate-sex-attacks
5. “Metropolitan police facing crisis after failures in Kirk Reid rape inquiry”, Sandra Laville, The Guardian, 27 March 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/mar/27/metropolitan-police-rape-inquiry
6. Sex crime: Yard attacked over failures in serial offender probe, with officers later promoted to top jobs, Margaret Davis, The Independent, 26 February 2013. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/sex-crime-yard-attacked-over-…
7. “False Reports of Sexual Assault: Findings on Police Practices, Laws, and Advocacy Options”. See the research at http://womenagainstrape.net/sites/default/files/final_paper_for_war_9-23…
9. Chris Armitt, national police lead on prostitution and Martin Hewitt, ACPO lead on sexual offences, quoted in “Mariana Popa was killed working as a prostitute. Are the police to blame?” The Guardian 19 January 2014.
10. Hilary Kinnel, Prostitutes’ Exposure to Rape, June 1993.
A Summary of issues raised in the ‘Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013)’ by Dr Alexis Jay, issued in August 2014.
Download a pdf of the full Report here
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013)
Good Press report in the Telegraph
This striking report is a breakthrough but leaves many questions unanswered. See WAR’s Questions to the Home Affairs Committee.
Refusal to Investigate and Prosecute
The Report says that over 1,400 girls suffered multiple crimes including: rape, child abduction, threats with guns, being given Class A drugs and alcohol, witness intimidation such as serious injury to themselves and other members of their families. This has been known by council social services and police since at least 2004, perhaps even since the late 1990s.
“At an operational level, the police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.
“Further stark evidence came in 2002, 2003 and 2006 with three reports known to the police and the council, which could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham. The first of these reports was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained. This had led to suggestions of cover-up. The other two reports set out the links between child sexual exploitation and drugs, guns and criminality in the borough. These reports were ignored and no action was taken to deal with the issues that were identified in them.”
No councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on, following explicit reports by Risky Business to council meetings in 2004 and 2005 naming 50 perpetrators, including names of taxi firms, individual taxi drivers, and takeaways, and addresses where rape took place, yet no concerted action followed for years. Some interviewees told the Report writer they suspected family or business connections with taxi firms, takeaways and hotels where the girls were raped, but police said there was no evidence of this.
The Director of Education 2001-2005 raised concerns with police three times, after the heads of three schools had told her of girls being picked up at the school gates by taxi drivers for abuse. “Police watched the schools in unmarked cars but the problem persisted.” “… she described how she was shown a map of the north of England overlaid with various crime networks including ‘Drugs’, ‘Guns’, and ‘Murder’. She was told that the Police were only interested in putting resources into catching ‘the ring leaders’ who perpetrated these crimes”. . . “if they were caught, her local problems would cease.” (pp 103-4)
The police and children’s services dramatically reduced the number of girls being monitored so that only tiny numbers of girls were identified as at risk of sexual exploitation. “The Police reason for removing several girls from monitoring was they were pregnant or had given birth. All looked after children were removed from the list.” Risky Business challenged this decision. (pp 104-5)
“…Between 2007-2013, the Police undertook a series of operations, jointly coordinated and designed to investigate cases of suspected child sexual exploitation, although only one resulted in prosecution and convictions … It ended in 2010 with 5 convictions.” (p 4)
“…Operation Chard in 2011 led to abduction notices and 11 arrests but no convictions.”
Child S, aged 17, was murdered – police dismissed it as an unconnected ‘honour killing’ by her boyfriend jealous of her having sex with other men. He was convicted. Her sister had been in care and was known to have been groomed.
Crown Prosecution Service
The Report says that the employees of the CPS dealing with CSE before 2010 have now retired.
CPS closed many of the cases because ‘they used rape myths against the victims’.
It took nine months in one case for the CPS to make a decision to take no further action against one of the perpetrators.
The Report says no councillors or police in the area can say they didn’t know what was going on. Risky Business reported on suspected family or business connections between politicians and perpetrators.
No minutes were kept in 2005, when Council Leader Roger Stone chaired a group to ‘take forward’ the above issues raised by Risky Business.
Council Leader in 2006 Roger Stone told a Tory councillor not to publicly raise concerns raised by his constituents about child exploitation, and that they were being dealt with by police.
Police and Crime Commissioner
PCC Shaun Wright was aware of the scale of rape and other crime from at least 2005 as the Lead Member for Children and Young People (2005-2010).
A question of priorities
A lot of the girls were in care; why is their safety considered worth less than others?
Prostitution has been used as an excuse to ‘blame’ these rape victims by claiming it was a ‘lifestyle choice’. But many of the girls were under aged 14 at the time, and were victims of rape or paying for sex with an underage girl. When they tried to get help from police, social workers or others in authority, they were not only denied help but criminalised, as were loved ones who tried to get the rapes to stop.
Race and ethnicity were used as an excuse to justify the lack of action against the perpetrators. The Report repeats claims that the authorities feared accusations of racism if they took action. This presumes that the Asian community would stand with rapists rather than victims, which is a blatant piece of racism by the police, the council, politicians and social services. The Asian community was outraged by the perpetrators and the way victims were treated.
Since the Report was published Asian women and girls have publicly stated that Asian girls were also being raped by adults.
What were the police doing instead of investigating and arresting child rapists? S Yorkshire is the same police force found to have been acting illegally at Orgreave during the miners’ strike (1984-5) and Hillsborough.
Their record in rape cases is abysmal – and they seem to resent accountability, preferring to improve PR rather than performance
theguardian.com, Monday 4 March 2013 09.00 GMT
Allegations of sexual violence and cover-up are threatening every institution. Can rape be dealt with when so many in authority are themselves guilty? Of course it can. But first the police, charged with enforcing the law, must change.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has investigated London’s Sapphire rape units nine times in seven years – that’s 19 officers disciplined, three dismissed, one imprisoned for fraudulently closing rape cases and another under investigation.
The latest IPCC report reveals the Southwark police policy to press women to withdraw or retract rape allegations. “This local standard operating procedure, authorised by senior officers, increased the number of incidents that were classified as ‘no crime’ and therefore increased the sanction detection rates for the unit” (by 25%-30%).
This was also policy in five other London boroughs. Fiddling the figures is fraud, and enabling rapists to go free amounts to criminal conspiracy. How many of the victims denied protection were raped again or worse? We already know that one alleged attacker killed his children. Were other women raped by these men? Did any victims denied justice take their own lives?
Further, victims who retract allegations can face prosecution. Layla Ibrahim and Gail Sherwood were both prosecuted in 2010 (as were at least 30 others). Both said they were pressed to retract under threat of prosecution. One did, the other refused. Both were imprisoned.
We have been campaigning against the prosecution of women who report rape. In 2011, 27 organisations signed our letter to the director of public prosecutions. He responded with guidance: the CPS should not prosecute women with mental illness, girls under 18 or victims of domestic violence. But he refused to acknowledge that negligent and biased investigations can result in jail for rape victims rather than rapists.
We are working with three women facing criminal charges. Several others were prosecuted for harassment after their rapists made counter allegations and were believed. Sex workers who reported violence were also prosecuted.
Last year, in a landmark human rights case, the daughter of a Women Against Rape volunteer won compensation from the police, following seven years of campaigning, after Southwark Sapphire lost evidence of the rape. The rapist was acquitted; we later learned he had been accused of another rape. A damning IPCC report found that Sapphire detectives were told to prioritise motor crime over rape. Four junior officers were disciplined. But the commander who set the policy went on to the National Centre for Policing Excellence – setting standards.
The IPCC now reveals that two senior officers involved in the case of serial sex offender Kirk Reid (who is thought to have assaulted between 80 and 100 women) were promoted, rather than disciplined. One later retired on full pension.
In 2009 and 2012 we met the heads of Sapphire. We demanded they stop promoting bad officers, and opposed their proposal to prosecute rapists for offences other than rape. We later wrote to DCI Duthie: “…resources will be diverted into gathering ‘intelligence’ for less serious crimes, avoiding a thorough investigation of the sexual violence allegations … Is it to do with officers having their own agenda rather than paying attention to what the victim reports?” We warned that “police priorities would again be skewed, the myth that rape is difficult to prosecute reinforced, and thus that there is no point investing too much into investigating it”.
We pointed to the separation of rape from domestic violence as a major obstacle, since more than half the rapes reported in London are by partners or ex-partners. Different units deal with each crime, so the full picture is hidden – cases are dropped or prosecutions fail.
Why do the police deal with rape so badly? Some are rapists themselves – a 2012 IPCC report, produced with the co-operation of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), looked at 54 accusations of sexual assault against officers. Some are sexist – a 2005 Home Office study revealed that many officers believed women are liars. Some are lazy or incompetent. Those officers who are committed to doing their job and seeing victims get justice clearly have less influence over priorities.
Like many in positions of power, the police seem to resent accountability. They have responded to anti-rape campaigning by improving their PR rather than their performance, and befriending the voluntary sector.
The IPCC helps them. Created to police the police, it shamelessly endorses the police claim that the problem is “historic” rather than current. In December 2012 the IPCC invited Eaves, Rape Crisis, NIA Ending Violence, Victim Support and the Havens to meet. The IPCC says all agreed that Sapphire, though patchy, has improved; all that is needed, it seems, is for frontline police to be trained in “informed consent” and “cultural issues”. Each one of these organisations (statutory or voluntary) is funded by the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice or the police. Those of us who are independent of police and government were not invited.
If senior officers were prosecuted when they pervert the course of justice, sexual violence investigations would improve. So would the behaviour of men, beginning with those in authority.
A landmark civil suit was settled on recently with the Metropolitan police paying £15,000 damages to a woman whose rape when she was 15 was badly mishandled by a police Sapphire Team in Southwark, London. With the scandals in the news of scores of girls raped over years in Rochdale, Rotherham and by Jimmy Savile (and possibly his associates), this case puts the spotlight on the flagship Sapphire Rape Units.
Their response so far is not encouraging. Every time they have been exposed mishandling rape investigations, they have claimed that the units had been restructured and cases like this could not happen again. But they continue to happen. When asked this morning on the Today programme why then the conviction rate for reported rape remained so low, Sapphire’s head DCI Mick Duthie said that 40% of women who report rape to the Met don’t want to prosecute. This is not our experience and is given the lie by the figures. All the women who come to us wanted justice and were prevented from getting it. The Met closes over half the reported rapes, and the CPS closes a further 40% of the rest – all decisions made against victims’ wishes.
This precedent claim is based on the Human Rights Act (Articles 3 and 8) and overturns decades of legal obstruction which has prevented victims of rape from suing the police for negligent investigations. The persistence of a mother campaigning with Women Against Rape and legally represented, has opened the way for other victims of crime to hold the police to account for ineffective investigations. On the basis of this claim and what was established here, others will now hopefully be encouraged to make their case.
Commenting on the settlement, the girl’s mother said:
“The police thought we were going to give up, and unless you fight all the way, they will intimidate you and smash you down with their enormous power and resources. But we were determined to win, for my daughter and all the other girls who have been denied justice. Why should victims who are let down have to go through this?”
“The settlement is not all we wanted, but we have won a lot along the way. We got four officers disciplined. We got a personal written apology from Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions. We got some compensation. But the most senior officer DCI Chambers was never held accountable for his actions. The trial judge criticised the police investigation and referred to non investigated issues as a disgrace. After the complaint investigation, a High Court judge said, ‘…It is reasonable to suspect that had the matter been investigated properly and the corroborative evidence obtained, the result might well have been different.’ This case has shown that the problem is not merely the ‘canteen culture’ at the lowest ranks, but the de-prioritising of rape organised from the top.”
The rape of the 15-year-old by a 28-year-old man took place in 2005. Despite the police having the attacker’s address, his vehicle registration and mobile number, it took three months of pressure by the girl’s mother, and another girl reporting the same man for rape, before he was finally arrested.
But that was not the end of the carelessness Ms X and her daughter suffered. At trial in 2006 it became clear that: the police had not interviewed potential witnesses and had lost crucial phone evidence which would have undermined the Defendant’s account. Not surprisingly, the jury did not convict, leaving the victim and her family shattered.
The man walked free and the girl’s mother contacted WAR, and soon became part of a team campaigning for justice.
Arrangements were made to speak to the media and meet both the local MP and the Borough Commander. This sparked an internal investigation by the head of the Central Sapphire Team, which found that the rape investigation had been wanting, and listed the following “mistakes”:
• “A serious stranger rape attack allocated to a PC [not a detective] to investigate.
• Failure to identify the link between the crime scene and the suspect’s vehicle.
• Failure to visit the crime scene at the earliest opportunity.
• Failure to identify the suspect and arrest at the earliest opportunity.
• Failure to properly investigate the allegation thoroughly and expeditiously, with particular emphasis on the failure to obtain correct telephone records.
• Failure to properly and effectively supervise the investigation.”
This report was not disclosed to the victim and her family until 2012, after a lengthy legal battle. Not satisfied with an apology that did not even offer any explanations, a formal complaint was lodged to the IPCC. Under pressure from the victim, her mother, Women Against Rape, and the victim’s lawyer Debaleena Dasgupta, the IPCC issued an unusually thorough and damning report in 2009. It revealed that:
• The Southwark Sapphire Rape Unit was systematically starved of resources, while resources were diverted to motor crime and robbery. At some points, the Unit was functioning without any trained detectives.
• The Unit left hundreds of rapes and sexual assaults to untrained, unqualified officers. The main officer on this case was a PC who had just joined the unit from Safer Neighbourhoods work. The PC was expected to handle over 30 cases at one time, an overwhelming number, with little or no training or supervision, and no experience of detective work.
• Officers (in this case women) who tried to get rape taken seriously and asked for more resources were rebuffed and blocked at every turn by their (male) superiors.
• Just weeks before, two of the officers in this complaint had been the subject of a complaint on another rape case in which they evaded discipline.
The IPCC report makes clear that the most junior officer struggled under an impossible workload; and while four officers were disciplined, it blames the man in charge the then Deputy Borough Commander DCI Chambers, who set the priorities and starved the Unit of resources could not be disciplined. DCI Chambers was able to refuse to be interviewed, and instead prepared a 37-page statement denying responsibility, retire from the Metropolitan Police and swiftly move to another position – at the Centre for Policing Excellence!
The girl’s mother said, “The police have been vicious in fighting our civil claim, and they fought dirty. I had to listen to them in court and felt that they were insinuating that my daughter hadn’t been raped. And when that didn’t work, they tried to minimise how ill their actions had made her – largely because of the additional trauma of being refused justice after the rape and of our family having to fight over years to get the truth disclosed. My daughter’s life has been destroyed, my 30-year marriage has ended under the stress. These injustices affect whole families and communities, and no amount of money can compensate for our loss. Do the police care? Does the Home Office care?
“This has never been about money. We wanted a declaration that my daughter’s human rights had been breached, an admission which would help to other women and girls. We were ready to go all the way to court to get it, but we were forced to settle because of costs risks – we don’t have the huge resources the police have. Working with WAR I see similar cases coming through our door all the time, so they can’t tell me this is all in the past. Victims are dismissed and ignored, especially children and teenagers. Those officers who want to do their job and complain about lack of support within the force also face obstacles.
“This case proves that the police, even when they admit mistakes, will spend lots of public money to stop victims getting justice.”
As Lisa Longstaff of WAR points out, “They keep saying that everything has changed, but these cases – from Rochdale to Southwark, from Saville to Coleman-Farrow – are a continual reminder of what the police policy on rape is in practice. For many, many women, children and families, it is not just that victims are disbelieved but, believed or not, that they face at best carelessness and at worst a complete refusal by police to properly investigate rape. . There is much PR about reporting but in reality children are treated as if they are supposed to be sexually available and keep their mouth shut.”
The claimant in the case said, “I think the police really believed me, but they really didn’t care.”
13 December 2012
For interviews contact:
Women Against Rape at 020 7482 2496, or firstname.lastname@example.org
 Sapphire Detective Constable Ryan Coleman-Farrow was convicted of falsifying rape records and closing cases of at least 12 survivors of rape recently.
Please help BWRAP and WAR to circulate the statement and article below:
The mass protests taking place all over India, and the international support for them, show how determined women are to end rape, and how we face similar violence and similar sexism by the authorities, wherever we are. For years our Indian sisters in Chhattisgarh have been organizing against rape and murder in the family but also by landlords, police and the military. But Dalit and Tribal women’s struggles have not been given prominence and support by the media or by most middle and upper class women in India or in the UK.
In our experience of dealing with rape and domestic violence here in the UK, the police are also the main obstacle to rape survivors getting justice. Only 6.5% of rapes in the UK end in conviction. We see daily cases dropped, as police have not gathered the evidence properly or the Crown Prosecution Service has decided it is not good enough to take to court. This is especially true for children, women of colour, women with disabilities and working class women generally. That’s why abusers and rapists like Savile and those in Rochdale and North Wales children homes and elsewhere were allowed to go for so long without being prosecuted, despite having been reported to the police and social services a number of times – vulnerable women and girls were treated as ‘plebs’ who exist to be available to sexual predators. We are even having to campaign with rape survivors imprisoned for reporting rape. Many cases of police rape have also come to light in the UK. We know these are only the tip of the iceberg.
Below are statements from a sister organisation based in 400 villages in Mahasamund, Chhattisgarh state; and comments from Arundhati Roy focusing on rape committed by police, army and others in authority, against women who have least. That these rapes are not prosecuted gives all violent men the go ahead – they know the authorities are on the side of the rapist and women are undefended.
We who are demanding justice today in India are demanding justice for all beginning with grassroots women everywhere including in the UK.
Statement from Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation), Chhattisgarh State, India – 6 January 2013
We condemn the gang rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi, and we demand the rapists get life imprisonment so other rapists are afraid and do not rape. In Chhattisgarh, Dalit and Tribal women and girls are being raped like the young woman in Delhi. Sometimes the media covers it but many times they don’t.
High level people who rape women, girls and boys should also be punished as many times they are not. This is happening in many countries. Our law is made by the government and it should be used against the high level people including if they are in government.
For many years in India there has been a grassroots movement of Dalit and Tribal women against rape. Nawa Chhattisgarh Mahila Samiti (NCMS) is part of this movement and has been working against rape since 1987 — in our area, 3,000 Dalit and Tribal women in NCMS have been fighting it. Women and girls are raped by high caste men, landlords and policemen. We help Dalit and Tribal women report rape and demand the police take statements, gather evidence and bring a prosecution of the rapist. Sometimes in the village area, up to 500 women go together to protest against a rapist at his house and shout against rape. Then the women go to the police station and demand the police file a report and punish the rapist. Last year government soldiers were raping women in the Tribal area, Bastar (Chhattisgarh) and in Kashmir but were not punished. We have campaigned to get bicycles for Tribal girls to go to school as school is far from their homes and this has also helped them not get harassed on the way.
In 2003 a police constable raped a 5 year old girl in Raipur. NCMS supported the girl and her family and helped the family get compensation from the government for the hospital costs for the young girl who had been severely injured. The policeman was prosecuted and imprisoned. This is one case of many where we help women and girls get justice against rape.
Naya Zamaana Aayega! A New Age is Coming!
* NCMS is an anti-racist organisation of Adivasi (Tribal) and Dalit women campaigning against bonded labour; rape, low and unequal pay and other discrimination. It brings together people from these two communities who are divided by landowners and other employers, police and government. NCMS is part of the Global Women’s Strike network.
Police, army rampantly use rape as weapon: Arundhati Roy
Published: Monday, Dec 31, 2012, 11:58 IST
Place: London | Agency: DNA
Reacting to the terrible news of the 23-year-old girl succumbing to injuries sustained while fighting off her rapists in a moving bus in the capital, Arundhati Roy warns that it is a sign of forebodings for women of all classes. About the massive outpouring of protests across the country, Roy said, “While we are seeing some very unexceptional reaction to an event which is hardly exceptional, though it’s a terrible thing to call a tragic event ‘exceptional’.
“However, the real problem is why is this crime creating such a lot of outrage is because it plays into the idea of the criminal poor, like the vegetable vendor, gym instructor or bus driver actually assaulting a middle class girl. Whereas when rape is used as a means of domination by upper castes, the army or the police it is not even punished,” said the feted author.
When asked if there was any chance that these huge protests are going to ring in some genuine change, Roy said, “I think it will lead to some new laws perhaps, an increased surveillance, but all of that will protect middle class women. But in cases of the army and the police as perpetrators, we are not looking for laws. What do you do when the police themselves burn down villages, gang-rape women. I have personally listened to so many testimonies of women to whom this has been done.”
Pointing to the contrast between the actual truth about women across the country and the image of modern India being portrayed by Bollywood and the hi-tech India, the author agreed that there are quite many a world competing here. “Feudal India has a huge history and legacy of disrespect and violence against women. Any accounts of Partition or what is done to Dalit women contains that but now there is sort of psychosis,” she said. See the YouTube video
While stating that the army and the police routinely use rape as a weapon against people in places like Chhattisgarh, Kashmir and Manipur after gaining impunity behind laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Roy said, “More dangerous is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Earlier, at least the rich did what they with a fair amount of discretion, but now it’s all out there on television for conspicuous consumption and there is an anger and psychosis building up and women at the top, middle and the bottom are going to pay the price for it.”
Complicity followed by incompetence in the Savile case landed the BBC in deep waters, to the delight of those who wish to undermine public broadcasting and to the chagrin of the taxpayer who foots the bill.
But let’s not take our eye off the ball and forget all those others who are culpable. Eileen Fairweather is right to be sceptical of Home Secretary Theresa May’s inquiry into North Wales care homes; and Tom Watson MP has already dismissed it as “the next stage of a cover-up”. As Keith Gregory, one of the survivors, pointed out: “It’s police investigating police and a judge investigating a judge. Will it be any different or do they all stick together?”
From Bloody Sunday to Steven Lawrence to Hillsborough, it is not inquiries but the determination of families and survivors which finally won the truth out, and some convictions.
Years of ignoring the crimes of Jimmy Savile – and related allegations of child abuse (i.e. rape, sexual assault and other violence against children) from Jersey to North Wales – prove that the priority was not to prevent or even stop the rapes, but to shield the criminal and his connections in high places so as not to disturb the status quo.
It is now clear that Savile’s criminality was well known. Former West Yorkshire Police detective John Stainthorpe said that Savile was one of the suspects put forward by the public in the Yorkshire Ripper case, and that the person who gave police the anonymous tip-off was ”aiming in the right direction . . . Child perverts soon become child killers.”
Former Radio 1 DJ Paul Gambaccini whose BBC studio was next door to Savile’s, said that he targeted not only children but children who were “institutionalised, hospitalised”. From Leeds General Infirmary, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the high-security psychiatric Broadmoor Hospital, there seem to have been nurses and others who witnessed Savile assault patients who were brain-damaged or recovering from an operation; some were told to pretend to be asleep when Savile visited so he wouldn’t interfere with them.
But only a few in positions of authority spoke out and are speaking out today. Alison Taylor, head of a home in Gwynedd, demanded action against the violence children from Nefyn Dodd and other homes were reporting to her. It took dedication and persistence: “The pattern seemed to be that if I made a complaint then something would happen to me – it was like having a sniper behind the wall.” She was suspended in January 1987. In 2000 the Waterhouse Inquiry into the North Wales sex crimes finally admitted that without Taylor there would not have been an inquiry and that “in general terms, she has been vindicated”. John Allen, head of the Bryn Alyn home, and deputy head Peter Howarth, were jailed.
But those who came in the “posh chauffeur driven cars” are still at large. In 1994 Clwyd County Council commissioned a report which stated that “At least 12 young people are dead [most of them having committed suicide] …” Will those who drove them to suicide finally be convicted? The report was never published; although copies were said to have been pulped, some have been found in the Council’s archives. Will it now see the light of day? Or will fear of lawsuits, such as those initiated by Lord MacAlpine after being wrongly accused of child abuse, be used as an excuse to censor the truth once more?
That many institutions gave Savile (and how many others connected and not connected to him?) free rein to assault the children in their care is shocking but not new. Many similar allegations have been made before. All should be reopened: not only Wales but Jersey. Police chief Graham Power claimed that politicians had interfered with the police investigation into the rape and even the deaths of children at Haut de la Garenne, and “closed ranks” with civil servants. He was suspended in what one politician called “a coup d’état”. The investigation was closed, the authorities eventually accepted they had failed some children “in a serious way”, and paid compensation to about 90 victims. But only eight out of 151 named abusers were prosecuted.
It augurs badly for the present inquiries that some charities seem to be turning the Savile scandal into a bid for funding rather than for justice and change. Yet charities, schools and hospitals did not defend victims from Savile – he was raising money for them! A former Children in Need chairman said they barred Savile from their charity. But unlike Alison Taylor they didn’t take as their brief to stop him.
Charities have written to the government offering to counsel Savile’s victims, but we don’t hear them pressing for justice or compensation. Counselling does not stop rape; it may help victims but it also puts the onus on them to “get over it”. Can you “move on” knowing your attackers are free to attack others? Rape victims go through the trauma of reporting to get recognition and to protect others – their fight for justice is a public service. And we know from experience that winning justice is the best healer.
Why is that so much to ask? The problem is not just that rape victims aren’t believed, some are. But believed or not, they are dismissed. Karin Ward, one of Savile’s BBC victims and a former resident at Duncroft school for girls, where Savile was allowed to roam, said that she sensed “That’s what we were for.” (Panorama 22 October 2012) Duncroft’s retired head Margaret Jones dismissed the claims of her former pupils as “wild allegations by well-known delinquents.” They were, after all, only plebs.
The same happened more recently in Rochdale, where girls from working class backgrounds were raped for years despite repeatedly reporting to police and social services. One desperate mother put her daughter in care for protection after the police refused to act – the violence only increased. While some of the rapists have been convicted, what about those police, social workers and others in positions of authority who allowed it to go on? Are they not just as culpable? Police claimed they didn’t arrest the men, who happen to be men of colour, because they were worried they would be accused of racism. Yet they have no qualms carrying out thousands of stop and search on men of colour who haven’t been accused of anything. And why was the head of social services able to resign without facing charges?
Something akin happens to asylum seekers at our Women’s Centre. Having fled rape and murder many are refused protection and reduced to destitution, again easy prey to rapists. Raped again in Britain they cannot afford to report for fear of deportation. One woman who reported after winning the right to stay was initially dismissed – police assumed they didn’t need to bother as she wouldn’t be in Britain for long.
If the welfare cap and cuts limiting child benefits to the first two children go through, many more women and children will face similar destitution, unable to feed our children (one in five mothers is already skipping meals to feed hers) or to leave violent relationships; more children will be taken into care or foster homes. We now know what happens to the unprotected – children with least social power are considered to be sexually available and disposable. Does the government care that their cuts undermine women’s and children’s ability to escape rape, or is that part of the policy’s attraction?
Getting justice for victims and stopping cuts that would add to vulnerability, could begin to stop this rape cancer at the heart of the establishment. It would encourage those police and social workers who want to act against rape rather than those who back it. We want to know: Who knew? What did they know? When did they know it? Whom did they tell? How many individuals and institutions were involved in covering up what crimes? We want “lessons to be learnt” – by rapists and their associates being arrested, prosecuted and convicted. Without justice the only lesson ever learnt is how to get away with it.