Rotherham victims 'still don't trust authorities enough to seek help', lawyer claims

Rotherham officials are said to have ignored numerous credible warnings

Just a few dozen victims of the more than 1,400 who were sexually exploited in Rotherham over a 16-year campaign of abuse have come forward for help - with a lingering lack of trust in the authorities to blame, a lawyer has said.

A year since the shocking Jay Report exposed the full extent of organised abuse in the South Yorkshire town, David Greenwood called for an independent agency to be brought in to support survivors.

Read: Children were 'raped and beaten' in Rotherham

Mr Greenwood represents 58 girls who were among those raped, trafficked, groomed and subjected to violent assaults between 1996 and 2012 - and said many victims were reluctant to trust the authorities who let them down so badly in the past.

Both [the police and council] 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.

David Greenwood, lawyer
The Jay Report sent shockwaves across the country Credit: PA

Last year's report by Prof Alexis Jay sent shockwaves across the country, revealing the sheer scale of sexual exploitation carried out by gangs consisting mostly of Asian men.

"Utterly appalling" stories were brought to light, she said, including children as young as 11 "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".

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

The Jay Report

Officers at South Yorkshire Police had treated victims with "contempt" and refused to believe what they were saying, the report found.

Resignations followed, including the leader, chief executive and director of children's services at Rotherham Council, as well as - eventually - the force's Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who had been the councillor in charge of children's services between 2005 and 2010.

Read: Shaun Wright steps down as PCC after Rotherham report pressure

The police force says it now has a team of more than 60 officers dedicated to tackling child sexual exploitation, with a panel of survivors who inform decision making and training.

A £3 million scheme was also launched earlier this month to bring in specialist workers from Barnardo's children's charity work with police.