A youth worker has outed herself as the whistleblower who exposed the Rotherham child grooming scandal, in the hope that more people will come forward.
Jayne Senior handed two cardboard boxes full of documents to Times journalist Andrew Norfolk that showed how police officers had continually ignored reports of child sex abuse by Pakistani gangs.
Although police and social services were aware of extensive evidence of the abuse, and had even identified suspects, they hesitated to charge anyone out fear of being branded racist.
Senior was manager of the Risky Business project which worked with vulnerable teenagers from 1999 until it was suddenly closed in 2011. Speaking to the Times, she told how police officers had dismissed evidence of massive sexual abuse as “made up” or “exaggerated.
“We worked with the girls and the girls trusted us and everything that we were told we reported. It had all been ignored,” she said.
Her frustration finally led her to handing over the documents to the journalist.
“I was hoping that some way or other somebody would get their finger out and do something to stop it. It was still going on. Closing [Risky Business] down didn’t make this go away. Nobody was fighting for these kids any more; nobody was trying to stop the horrors.”
The revelations finally shamed the local council into launching an inquiry, led by Alexis Jay. Jay’s subsequent report found that at least 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
Senior is now revealing her identity in the hope that other whistleblowers will come forward.
“I want to give other people the confidence to come forward and speak about failings on such a grand scale and also for survivors out there to realise it doesn’t go away and there are people out there who will keep fighting until they get the justice they deserve.”
Such was the sensitivity over the leak that Andrew Norfolk hid the documents in a secret location over 30 miles from his home and agreed not to speak with Senior for six months. Rotherham Borough Council tried to set up a criminal enquiry to find out who leaked the files, but they were unsuccessful.
The scandal led to the downfall of the leader and chief executive of Rotherham Borough Council, and of Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. He had been in charge of child safety in the city while much of the abuse had taken place.
In February this year, then-Labour Party leader Ed Miliband apologised for his party’s failing in Rotherham: “I am deeply sorry for what happened in Rotherham and we are determined to have a fresh start, a fresh start in terms of the people of Rotherham most of all. The Labour Party did let people down in Rotherham, absolutely.”