‘No cover ups’ in child sex abuse cases says Wakefield Council

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Police are investigating six cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Wakefield.

During the past year police have looked into 18 cases where CSE was suspected or identified.

John Wilson, Wakefield Council's corporate director for children and young people

John Wilson, Wakefield Council's corporate director for children and young people

Specifics of the cases cannot be revealed, as the investigations are ongoing, and it is unclear whether they relate to the grooming or trafficking of children.

The details were disclosed by John Wilson, Wakefield Council’s corporate director for children and young people, at a full council meeting on Wednesday.

He said: “In the last year the police have investigated 18 cases where CSE was suspected or identified and the police are still actively working six of those cases.”

The announcement came after the publication of a report by Professor Alexis Jay which found at least 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013, with most of the victims describing their abusers as Asian men. It revealed a culture where some staff, police and councillors were frightened to report cases of child sexual exploitation for fears of being called racist.

Mr Wilson said: “There have been accusations of a cover-up in Rotherham, a very serious allegation. Our culture means that where issues come forward, they are addressed and where abuse is identified it is tackled.

“We do not do cover-ups. In Wakefield, the open and transparent culture I have described leaves no room for confusion over priorities. However, where we can do more is our engagement with different community groups and this will drive our approach to working more closely with them.”

“I see no resemblance between the culture in Wakefield, here today, and the culture in Rotherham described by Professor Jay. I see no parallel with Wakefield. Wakefield Council deals with issues without fear or favour.

“I would like to make it very clear to members that if child abuse or exploitation was ever an issue in this district then we would tackle it and do so quickly.

“Abuse is abuse, exploitation is exploitation and those responsible have to be brought to account.”

Mr Wilson said the council had reviewed all of its cases where exploitation could be happening since the publication of Prof Jay’s report three weeks ago. He also said the authority would review its systems to ensure they meet the needs of vulnerable children.

He added: “The council has a duty to protect. Systems and processes are not enough on their own though. The quality of the work of individual staff with vulnerable children has to be assessed, judged and quality assured, and improved where that is necessary.

“This huge piece of work gives me confidence in our work. That these cases are being properly managed and the children involved are being properly safeguarded.”

Mr Wilson’s speech was welcomed by councillors who thanked officers and other agencies for their work on the exploitation of children in the area. Council leader Peter Box told the meeting: “The moment the Jay report was issued we had a meeting so we could look at where we could be better.

“I just want to thank everybody for the work they have done so far and I will give the people of this district reassurance that we will do whatever we can to protect our young people.”

Temporary Supt Karen Gayles, of Wakefield district police, confirmed the investigations were ongoing.

She said: “Wakefield police has a comprehensive multi-agency approach to child sexual exploitation and works closely with partners to share relevant information.

“We have a small number of ongoing investigations which our expert child safeguarding investigators are dealing with. Any allegation of child sexual exploitation or concerns regarding a vulnerable child being in inappropriate circumstances will be dealt with as a priority.

Anyone who has any information or is a victim of CSE should contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.”