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Rotherham Children's Services Director Testimony Called into Question

Rotherham Children's Services Director Testimony Called into Question

Joyce Thacker, former director of Children’s Services at Rotherham, has been asked to write to MPs with a “full explanation” for why she had omitted key information when giving evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

Thacker avoided telling the committee that she prevented the Asian ethnicity of men suspected of abusing children be known, in order to promote “community cohesion”, The Times has reported.

The evidence centred around the case of Laura Wilson, a 17 year old mother who was stabbed to death in 2011 by two Asian men, one of whom was the baby’s father. She had been groomed for sex by various Asian men since the age of 12.

Before her death Wilson was monitored by Rotherham Children’s Services, but despite requests from her family to intervene, Children’s Services refused to intervene in her case, carrying out what they termed “preventative” work only.

In 2012 Rotherham’s Safeguarding Children board, on which Ms Thacker sat, was forced by the government to openly publish a report into the care agencies’ dealings with Wilson; however, the council submitted a heavily redacted version of the report in which information about the men of Pakistani origin suspected of grooming Wilson and other children was obfuscated.

The council then attempted to use a High Court injunction to prevent The Times from revealing full details from the report – an attempt that has failed. Consequently, the paper has revealed:

“The fact that Laura ‘was mentioned’ during a 2009 police inquiry that led to the conviction of five men of Pakistani origin for sex offences against girls.

“Her mother’s recollection that Laura ‘had always said that what [another girl] was doing was wrong and that she would never mess around with Asian men’.

“The fact that when she was 13, Laura and a friend ‘were given alcohol by men at a local takeaway and were asked what they were going to give them in return’. Her mother ‘immediately notified the police’.”

The redacted report had also stated that when Laura was ten years old “one of her siblings is thought to have become involved in sexual exploitation”; the uncensored version revealed that this was “with particular reference to Asian men being involved”.

Two weeks ago Ms Thacker appeared before the home affairs select committee to answer questions on the case, and was asked about the redactions. She insisted “my only ever intention with [Laura’s] serious case review was to protect her remaining family”.

However, The Times has unveiled minutes from a December 2011 safeguarding board meeting, which reveal that the board’s “decision on whether or not to publish the . . . report” was based not only on discussions with Wilson’s family concerning their ongoing welfare, but also on the potential “community cohesion impact” – something that Ms Thacker omitted to mention whilst giving her evidence.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said: “We will be writing to Ms Thacker to ask for a full explanation.” Ms Thacker’s advisors did not respond to a request by The Times for comment.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Exploitation in Rotherham by Alexis Jay, released last month revealed that “approximately 1400 children were sexually exploited over the full Inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013,” although that number was thought to be a “conservative estimate”.

The report continues “By far the majority of perpetrators were described as ‘Asian’ by victims … Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.

“… there was a widespread perception that messages conveyed by some senior people in the Council and also the Police, were to ‘downplay’ the ethnic dimensions of CSE. Unsurprisingly, frontline staff appeared to be confused as to what they were supposed to say and do and what would be interpreted as ‘racist’.”


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