Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley Robbie Moore is pushing for a Rotherham-style investigation into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Bradford.
Mr Moore who was elected to represent his constituency in December 2019 is passionate about uncovering the true numbers of child abuse in Bradford District within the past two decades.
This comes after Bradford Partnership – Working Together to Safeguard Children published a review into CSE within the Bradford District on 27 July. The report looked at five children, three of whom are now adults, two of whom were abused during the 2000s. Mr Moore believes that the report published “asks more questions than it answers”.
Mr Moore will be bringing this issue to the forefront of English politics with a debate in parliament on Monday 18 October.
In an exclusive interview with Asian Standard, Mr Moore said: “The reason why I’m pushing for this investigation is that seven or eight weeks ago there was a thematic review that was released that looked at CSE within the Bradford District over the last twenty years.
“However, it only looked at five children who were abused over that period. Two of which is classed as ‘non-recent’ with the other three being classed as ‘more recent’ cases. The children had gone through horrific experiences. All five children had gone through ‘the system’ – either being in looked after care or were the responsibility of the local council through the children services department. They also interacted with other organisations, from healthcare to West Yorkshire Police.
“The conclusion to the report is that there have been cross-agency failings over the past twenty years, there remain children at risk, whether they are in looked after care or across the district, and it also concludes that there is an unknown quantity at risk and that there is an unknown number of perpetrators that remain unchallenged.
“To me, that rings huge alarm bells because how could we not know how many children have been impacted over the past two decades and how can we not have a good handling or understanding of the perpetrators that remain out there now and why are they not being challenged? This review poses a lot more questions than it answered.”
Mr Moore added: “When you look at Rotherham, there was a much more in-depth report that was done that uncovered actually how many children were impacted by grooming and which agencies were at fault and how they were at fault and how the failings had worked their way through over the twenty-plus years.”
The report Mr Moore mentions is the Jay Report, which is an independent inquiry into CSE in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. The report written by Professor Alexis Jay OBE, a former chief inspector of social work, was commissioned by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.
Mr Moore said that providing a report like Rotherham’s will “get it all out into the open” and “provide reassurance to the victims and their families who have gone through this horrific ordeal. It is absolutely right that we get to the bottom of this by calling it out for what it is so that we can then move forward as a community.”
Mr Moore also mentioned that “Bradford Children Services is in a horrific state”. “It infuriates me that the leadership at Bradford Council has allowed it to get to this state under their watch. In 2018, Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Department was rated inadequate by Ofsted. It has not improved over the last three years to the extent the government had to step in and put a commissioner in charge of the department.
“It exasperates me that people who are in a position of responsibility, whether a member of parliament or leader of the council, or our new West Yorkshire Mayor are not calling for the same thing.”
Mr Moore says he spoke at a Commons debate on ‘grooming gangs’ He also went on to say that it is ‘unfair’ the Pakistani Muslim community have been branded as the main perpetrators.
“If you look at who has been convicted of these crimes so far, it is a minority of Pakistani Muslim men targeting young children. Though, it is completely unfair on the whole community to be branded with the same accusation.”
“There was a huge feeling of frustration amongst the wider Pakistani community that they were being painted with the same brush. The failings, from Rotherham,
is that those in the position of influence whether it was the local authority or West Yorkshire Police who were not willing to talk about the issues that then led to them not being dealt with.”
Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin, Deputy Mayor Alison Lowe, independent chair of the most recent CSE report in Bradford, Jane Booth, and Leader of Bradford Council Susan Hinchcliffe are all opposed to a Rotherham-style inquiry, passing the buck onto the national inquiry into CSE that is due to publish a report next year.
Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in West Yorkshire, Alison Lowe has also said she does not support Mr Moore’s calls for an inquiry. Ms Lowe appeared on the BBC show Politics North on Monday and said: “Bradford has done an extensive investigation. It was independent. It was not a pretty investigation, it was quite hard-hitting, and it came out with some recommendations for change, and it also said people are still at risk today.
“They also put themselves forward to the national independent review (of child sexual exploitation) and asked if they could be subject to further review.
“The review process said no to Bradford because they clearly didn’t feel there was any value to be gained from carrying on that investigation into Bradford.”
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the Leader of Bradford Council, said: “CSE is a hideous crime. It’s not confined to Bradford District, or even West Yorkshire, this is a national issue. This is why Government set up the national inquiry. We’ve been consistently open and transparent about our work on CSE, both on historic crimes and how we are tackling them now. Bradford referred itself to the national inquiry some time ago and has worked with them.
“Bradford encourages robust scrutiny of its CSE work. The MP infers that this is the only report Bradford district has ever done on CSE, it is not. The independent thematic review published in July is one of several reports produced on CSE over a long period. We have been publishing reports annually for the last eight years on CSE. These are very detailed and available for anyone to read at any time. Similarly, a report goes to the Scrutiny committee annually and further localised reports are scrutinised by area committees for the five constituencies in the Bradford district, including Keighley.
“It is self-evident that victims were let down by all agencies, particularly in that period before 2010 when the attitudes of public agencies were wrong. No report will ever be enough to put those wrongs done to the victims right. However, we do have a track record of supporting victims to find justice through the courts and will always support the police to prosecute these crimes, no matter when they happened.
“Protecting children need a multi-agency approach and all partners are working closely and tirelessly to see how we can improve practice so that they can keep children safe.”
Jane Booth, Independent Chair of The Bradford Partnership – Working Together to Safeguard Children. Also disagrees with the Keighley & Ilkley MP. She said:
“A public inquiry is unlikely to provide us with any new learning that would better protect children from being abused.”
Bradford District Commander Chief Superintendent Daniel Greenwood didn’t comment on an inquiry but did give assurances that the police would take serious action to bring offenders to justice. He said:
“We have had several successful outcomes at court involving perpetrators being given lengthy prison sentences and continue to work tirelessly to bring offenders to justice. In addition to this, we have several ongoing criminal cases. I want anyone who has suffered or suspects someone has suffered abuse to have the confidence to report these matters to us – we will treat all victims seriously, sensitively and give them our full support.”
At a national level, the IICA will demand accountability for past institutional failings and make practical recommendations to ensure children are given the care and protection they need.
The national inquiry is expected to publish its report in 2022.