An independent report has found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013.
Report author Professor Alexis Jay said that girls as young as 11 were raped by “large numbers of male perpetrators”.
It spoke of the “collective failures” of political, police and social care leadership over the first 12 years the inquiry covered.
The BBC News website looks at how events unfolded in the town.
Early to mid 1990s
Community workers come across examples of child sexual exploitation during this period, according to the new report. It was known that children under the care of the local authority were 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 about young people being abused through prostitution. By the late 1990s it starts to identify vulnerable girls and young women on the streets of the town, and refers to children’s social care any young person who causes serious concerns.
A small group of professionals from key agencies meet children at risk of, or involved in, child sexual exploitation (CSE) but their work is not properly supported, according to the report. Some of those at a senior level in children’s social care and in the police think youth workers are exaggerating the extent of the issue.
A chapter of a draft report into CSE in Rotherham – referred to as The Home Office Report – contains severe criticisms of agencies working to tackle such crimes. It shows there is a “high prevalence of young women being coerced and abused through prostitution”.
Senior officers at the council and in the police are unhappy with The Home Office Report, with the suggestion some facts are either exaggerated or made up. The researcher writing the report does not complete her work. However the Jay report says the content which was objected to has been shown to be “largely accurate”.
The Jay report states: “Had this [2002 draft] report been treated with the seriousness it merited at the time by both the police and the council, the children involved then and later would have been better protected and abusers brought to justice.”
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.
In a later report, in 2006, Dr Heal describes the situation continuing “as it has done for a number of years” with an organised and established sexual exploitation scene.
The Area Child Protection Committee approves revised procedures relating to the sexual exploitation of children.
The Sexual Exploitation Forum is set up later in 2003, holding monthly meetings to discuss cases of children who are being sexually exploited or are at risk.
November 2004 and early 2005
Presentations on CSE are made to the council’s children’s executive group, the children and young people’s board and the safeguarding board. An action plan is called for.
A seminar on CSE is held for all council members. A new department of children and young people’s services is created with Councillor Shaun Wright appointed cabinet member for the department.
The Sexual Exploitation Forum is discussing more than 90 cases and it is decided that the number being considered should be reduced. This followed an audit of 87 CSE cases carried out by police on behalf of the forum.
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.
The forum learns that Risky Business is “inundated” with referrals, all of them relating to young people under the age of 18, and some of whom are in care. Risky Business is said to be under pressure from those who referred the children.
Operation Central is set up to investigate men believed to be involved in child sexual exploitation. Funding for Risky Business is increased.
Ofsted rates Rotherham’s children’s services as “inadequate” as the safety of children can not be assured.
The local Safeguarding Children Board sets up a child sexual exploitation sub group.
Five men from Rotherham’s Asian community are jailed for sexual offences against teenage girls.
The Times publishes an investigation revealing that a confidential 2010 police report had warned thousands of child sexual exploitation crimes were being committed in South Yorkshire each year by networks of Asian men.
The newspaper also reports that police and child protection agencies in the town of Rotherham had extensive knowledge of such crimes for decades, yet offences went unprosecuted. South Yorkshire Policedenies withholding information and says the suggestion it was reluctant to tackle child sexual abuse is wrong.
Rotherham Borough Council, South Yorkshire Police and other agencies set up a CSE team to investigate the issues raised in the report.
The police force denies it had been reluctant to tackle child sexual abuse but the Home Affairs Select Committee tells the chief constable and one of his top officers to “get a grip” on the issue.
The chief executive of the council appears before the Home Affairs Select Committee to answer questions about the lack of prosecutions, with chairman Keith Vaz saying the council had not done enough since the 2010 prosecutions.
Council chief executive Martin Kimber blames “systematic failures” as he apologises to victims and their families.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright announces three reviews of child sexual abuse in the South Yorkshire Police area.
Four women sue the council for failing to protect them when they were children.
The council announces it is commissioning an independent inquiry. It is later announced that Professor Alexis Jay will lead the inquiry team.
26 August 2014
Professor Alexis Jay’s report is published. Rotherham Borough Council leader Roger Stone steps down with immediate effect. Mr Wright says he will stay in his job as police commissioner despite calls for him to stand down.