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"Small fraction" of Rotherham victims have come forward for help

Only a small fraction of more than 1,400 victims who were sexually exploited as children in Rotherham over a 16-year period have come forward for help, according to a lawyer representing survivors.

A year after the publication of the Jay Report, which produced the shocking estimate that more than 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked, groomed and violently attacked in the South Yorkshire town, David Greenwood said he believes fewer than 100 of the girls involved have engaged with the raft of new inquiries.

Mr Greenwood, who represents 58 girls who were subjected to sexual abuse by gangs of men in Rotherham between 1996 and 2012, says the much-criticised police and council have made progress in the town in the last 12 months.

But he believes many survivors will only trust the system again once a truly independent agency is brought in.

"Both agencies have improved in Rotherham in the last 12 months but survivors of exploitation will be unwilling to come forward to them unless radical changes are made.

"An agency independent from South Yorkshire Police and RMBC (the council) is essential for the 1,400 young women who need help.

"I am aware of only around 50 to 60 girls having come forward. This means there are around 1,350 whose lives could be improved with specialist help."

– David Greenwood, lawyer representing Rotherham child sexual exploitation survivors

Professor Alexis Jay shocked the UK with her report, which was published on August 26 last year.

It was already well-known that girls in Rotherham had been subjected to sexual exploitation by gangs of largely Asian men but the outrage provoked by the Jay Report stemmed from the sheer scale of offending and it outlined the horrific details included of what had beengoing on in the town between 1996 and 2013.

Professor Jay said at the time she had found "utterly appalling" examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".

She said: "They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated."

She said she found that girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men.

Waves of criticism followed, aimed mainly at Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police.

Resignations included the leader and chief executive of the council as well as its director of children's services.

The most high profile casualty was South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Shaun Wright, who was the councillor in charge of Rotherham's children's services between 2005 and 2010.

A further review of Rotherham Council by the Government's Troubled Families chief, Louise Casey, heaped more criticism on an authority she labelled as "not fit for purpose" and "in denial".

That lead to the then communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles handing over its powers to a panel of appointed commissioners.

Both the council and the police say their focus over the last 12 months has been on building trust among survivors.<

South Yorkshire Police says it now has a team of more than 60 officers working on child sexual exploitation (CSE) and its joint operation with the council and Crown Prosecution Service - Operation Clover - is beginning to see suspected abusers brought before the courts in numbers.

The National Crime Agency has been brought in to investigate historical crimes and recently announced it was looking at 300 potential suspects.

The new Police and Crime Commissioner, Alan Billings, has set up a panel of survivors of CSE which he says is informing decision making and police training.

And a £3 million initiative was announced earlier this month which will see a Barnardo's team of specialist workers work with children in South Yorkshire who are at risk of being sexually exploited.

"Only when large numbers of girls affected feel able to speak to the police and with confidence that they will be believed, protected and supported will we know more.

"I have spoken with many girls who simply want nothing to do with the police at present and until the police put in place really good tailor-made support from specialist and dedicated officers they will not engage." "I would like to see a truly independent agency offering survivors good quality support, protection, talking therapies, help with housing, childcare and education. We still have a long way to go."

– David Greenwood, lawyer representing Rotherham child sexual exploitation survivors

Fresh appeal to trace hit and run driver on 14th anniversary of cyclist's death

Officers investigating the death of a Harrogate cyclist 14 years ago have today launched a fresh appeal for information to trace the hit and run driver.

Stefan Forge Credit: North Yorkshire Police

47-year-old Stefan Forge died on 22 August ,2001 after being hit by an unknown vehicle as he cycled with a friend along the A658 towards Buttersyke Bar near Harrogate.

The vehicle that hit Stefan and his friend - at around 11.15pm - failed to stop at the scene.

Tragically Stefan died from his injuries. His friend, who was severely traumatised by the incident, survived but suffered serious injuries.

Police investigating the collision are now carrying out a review of the case and to coincide with the fourteenth anniversary of the collision, are appealing to anyone who has any information but has not contacted the police.

“14 years have passed since Stefan died and I am hoping that with the passage of time, someone is now in a position to come forward with information that can help our investigation.

“Stefan’s family have had to carry on with their lives, not knowing the full circumstances of his death or who was responsible.

"We are still working on behalf of them, and hope that someone with that vital piece of information that will lead us to the identity of the vehicle and its driver, is out there.

“It may be that back in 2001, they felt they could not come forward with that information, but perhaps circumstances have changed and they are now in a position to share that information. "For the sake of Stefan and his family, I urge you to please get in touch and tell us what you know.”

– Sgt Ian Pope, North Yorkshire Police's Major Collision Investigation Unit

Anyone with any information is asked to call North Yorkshire Police on 101, select option 2 and ask for Ian Pope, or email ian.pope@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk

If you wish to remain anonymous, you can pass information to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Yorkshire Ambulance Service 'must improve'

Yorkshire Ambulance Service has been told it 'must improve' Credit: ITV Yorkshire

Yorkshire Ambulance Service has been told it 'must improve' following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

The service says it has made changes since the inspection, which found that it was failing to respond to life-threatening incidents within the target time.

The CQC also highlighted concerns about out-of-date medical supplies, ambulance cleanliness and infection control.

Thousands trained in first aid thanks to banker fines

A first aid course in East Yorkshire is being paid for by money raised through fines from one of the country's worst banking scandals - the rigging of the Libor exchange rate used by banks for lending money to one another. More than a thousand teenagers are being taught life-saving skills by St John's Ambulance in Cottingham. It's hoped they will never need to use them but if they do it could save lives.

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Botanist comes out of coma after contracting deadly virus from mosquito bite

A leading botanist from Malton in North Yorkshire who was struck down by a deadly virus while working in China has come out of a coma.

Dr Sophie Williams

31-year-old Dr Sophie Williams, remains on life support but is showing signs of recognising her family and friends. She contracted Japanese encephalitis while carrying out research last month and has been flown to Liverpool for treatment. Her family say they'll be meeting doctors later this week to get an update on Sophie's condition.

Higher number of smokers in Yorkshire than national average

Smoking in our region is higher than the national average. Government health officials say they want to see GPs able to prescribe e-cigarettes on the NHS as they publish a review saying vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco.

Percentage of smokers in each area:

  • Hull 29%
  • Leeds 22%
  • Lincolnshire 19%
  • Doncaster 21%
  • Bradford 23%

Sam Brown restarts life-saving treatment

A boy from Otley who suffers from a rare and life-threatening disease has restarted his treatment today.

Six-year-old Sam Brown has Morquio Syndrome. It is a degenerative disease where patients with the condition appear healthy at birth, but within 24-36 months start to show symptoms of severe problems. Average life expectancy of someone with Morquio Syndrom is just 25 years.

His family are campaigning for a drug called Vimizim to be funded by the NHS. Vimizim is an enzyme replacement drug that targets the enzyme deficiency in people with Morquio. Clinical trials have found that it improves energy and stamina levels, and allows children with Morquio to grow taller than they would if untreated.

NHS England has deferred its decision on funding the drug because NICE has said that doubts exist about the benefits and cost of this treatment in its recent draft guidance.

Drug manufacturer BioMarin has temporarily restored free provision of the drug until October.

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