Rotherham councillors ‘tried to keep a lid on grooming scandal’, says Alexis Jay

Alexis Jay's report contained damning criticism of the way abuse cases were handled by authorities in South Yorkshire
Alexis Jay's report contained damning criticism of the way abuse cases were handled by authorities in South Yorkshire

Rotherham councillors ‘tried to keep a lid’ on the town’s grooming scandal, the professor who revealed the full extent of the problem has said.

Alexis Jay said the Labour-dominated council turned a blind eye to child sexual exploitation issues, partly because it involved offenders from a community ‘expected to vote Labour’.

In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Jay said the ethnicity of perpetrators, almost all of whom were believed to be of Pakistani heritage, was a ‘very complex issue’.

She said: “I understood that the community in Rotherham were described as coming from possibly three villages in Kashmir, and that this identification was very important to them.

“Their traditions and relationships, these were not sophisticated, they were very traditional.

“I was told by many people that previous generations had a different view about women’s place in their culture and their society that certainly wouldn’t accord with any sense that we have.”

Professor Jay said she believed the Labour-dominated council turned a blind eye to the issue because of ‘their desire to accommodate a community that would be expected to vote Labour, to not rock the boat, to keep a lid on it, to hope it would go away’.

She added: “There are some people who can only see it as being one massive conspiracy with a single person at the centre of it. That’s not the case.

“It’s not possible, because these organisations and people were too disconnected. They were connected at a professional level, but they had different agendas.”

The interview comes almost a year after Professor Jay published her findings that at least 1,400 children had been victims of child sexual exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.

Former Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone, who resigned within minutes of the report being made public, later told MPs that the accusations in the report were ‘mostly vague and unsubstantiated’.

Professor Jay told the Guardian: “I am at a loss to know what other evidence people need.

“If that’s how he sees it, so be it. I’m not getting into an argument with him about it. For goodness sake. Would he like to look at every single one of the 937 cases we were given by his council and the police to examine? It might be enlightening.”

She has been assisting the National Crime Agency with their new investigation into the Rotherham scandal, which has identified around 300 potential suspects so far.

Professor Jay said she only has ‘middling’ confidence in whether the investigation will be a success.

She said: “I could not say with absolute confidence that some of the worst perpetrators would be brought to justice.”