Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Rotherham: How come the authorities failed so badly?

How come the South Yorkshire Police Service failed to prevent the sexual abuse of 1,400 young girls over the 16 years to 2013?

It is simply not enough to  point the finger at political correctness. It was a factor, but it cannot be the sole cause.

The police could easily have said, "Look, the Sexual Offences Act 2003  sets the age of consent at 16 years. We don't care who the perps are, white, black, brown, we are going to arrest them".

But they didn't. Why not?

It could be that the police were under resourced. The news today is that police are essentially ignoring certain crimes such as theft from cars and garages, asking victims to investigate the crime themselves, simply because they cannot cope because of austerity-shrunken budgets.

However, all police forces are cash-strapped, and not all forces perform as badly as Rotherham. There must be other contributing factors.

There are technical difficulties with getting convictions for sex crimes. Rapes are rarely conducted in public, so there are no direct witnesses to the crime. It is the word of the (child) victim against the (adult) accused. For a lawyer, children, especially abused children are not "good witnesses".  As a result of the circumstances of their upbringing and their abuse they often have low self-esteem, low self confidence, are often not good communicators and are poorly socialised.

In court, it is easy for a barrister from a privileged background, public school and university education, a professional familiarity of Court procedure and a supercilious manner to reduce these witnesses to tears and destroy their credibility.

In the case of child witnesses and rape victims, courts have now managed to understand the asymmetry of this situation, and children are now sometimes able to testify via video links and personal, one-to-one interviews with the judge, although the facility is under-used.
Here is a petition to make this facility universal.

Another aspect of the police' reluctance to get involved in this kind of problem is that the victim often has a complex, ambivalent relationship with their abuser.  The aim of grooming is to make the victim believe that she is loved and cared for by the abuser. They may be made into addicts by their abusers. So they both love and hate their abuser. They may say they want to bring charges against their abuser, but the next day, they may not want to bring charges.

Even if the police decide that on balance it is worth bringing charges, the Crown Prosecution Service may take a different view.

So the kids are "bad witnesses". There is a workaround, but the facilities to enable the child to bear witness are not universally in place.

And yet, the police are there to enforce the law. The law is that sex with children under 16 is a crime. South Yorkshire police failed to enforce the law.

There may be mitigating circumstances as above, but could there be other motives for this failure?

Three other possibilities exist: culture, corruption and conspiracy.

Every institution has its own culture. Judge William Macpherson declared in his Report on Stephen Lawrence's murder that the Metropolitan Police had a culture of "institutional racism".  And police, like journalists, are known to be fond of alcohol when off-duty, and are fairly tolerant of drunks, but correspondingly intolerant of cannabis consumption.

The police service is not a stranger to sexism. A black WPC was awarded damages for dirty tricks against her.

In the Jay Report we read (8.1) Certainly there is evidence that police officers on the ground in the 1990s and well beyond displayed attitudes that conveyed a lack of understanding of the problem of CSE and the nature of grooming. We have already seen that children as young as 11 were deemed to be having consensual sexual intercourse when in fact they were being raped and abused by adults. 
and in 8.2, attitude of the Police at that time seemed to be that they were all ‘undesirables’ and the young women were not worthy of police protection.

So there was a culture of disregard and contempt for the girl victims.

In conclusion

British policing is not free of corruption. The case of Daniel Morgan demonstrates this. He was a private investigator who was close to uncovering serious drug-related police corruption, when he was murdered with an axe in SE London on 10th March 1987. Five police inquiries followed. One is still running. The case spills over to the News of the World hacking scandal and also the Stephen Lawrence case.

There is no reasonable doubt that corruption exists within the police force. Indeed, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has admitted as much.

If there had been an arrangement between the taxi drivers and some high ranking police officers, it would explain a lot.

So what about conspiracy? We know that there are many paedophiles in the general population. It is hard to be certain, but estimates are that the prevalence is about 5% of males. It is reasonable to suppose that this prevalence will be greater in those who have been exposed to sexual abuse at boarding school, which is where a large proportion of our government officers, MPs and Peers were educated. The incidence of practitioners will increase if there is a perception that they can get away with it by reason of being in a position of power, as was the case for Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith.

During the bad old days when homosexuality was illegal, gays could recognise each other ("gaydar") and support each other. They even had their own language, Polari.

There is no reason to believe that paedophiles would hold back from forming such networks within Westminster. We do know of networks and gangs of common paedophiles who have been caught.

These comments are by no means anywhere near proof that networks of corruption and paedophilia exist in our ruling classes. But the hypothesis that these networks exist is certainly a reasonable one, and it is consistent with the observation of 15 instances where police failed to investigate, pulled detectives off their cases when they were closing in on VIPs, lost evidence and other officials acted to cover up and protect child abusers in the Establishment. Even more astonishing are the three cases where witnesses - one even being a Home Office researcher - felt that police officers threatened them if they did not desist from investigating sex abuse. See "Physical threats" on this page.
One witness, Bulic Forsythe,  a Lambeth social worker, was murdered days after he spoke about his suspicions that children were being assaulted by an organised gang at one home that is said to have been visited by the Labour politician. Three men were seen taking files from his house. 
A policeman who shared suspicions about a Labour politician was pulled from the case, which remains unsolved.
The corruption hypothesis may or may not be accurate. It can be tested by a vigorous, determined police investigation aimed at finding the source of instructions within the police to not prosecute Asians, to set aside the 2003 Act, and to remove the evidence gathered by the Home Office researcher.

To expose and excise the corrupt officers needs investigation by courageous, committed officers of integrity who are backed by politicians of similar calibre. This is a tall order, but it can happen, if hundreds of ordinary, decent citizens take the trouble to join the campaign for justice for young people.

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