THE UK could be on the brink of one the most shocking child sex abuse exposés in history, according to Scotland’s most respected social work expert.
A five-year inquiry has been launched to uncover institutional paedophile activity and cover ups, and Professor Alexis Jay who is on the panel of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, has warned that the range of abuse is potentially enormous.
The investigation has been launched amid allegations of abuse rings in Westminster. Professor Jay said: “Regrettably, what I think we are seeing is the uncovering of a scale of abuse, across many institutions, which we have never anticipated.
“We don’t know yet exactly what we will find but it stretches back a long, long way.”
Scotland’s former chief social work adviser has previously issued damning indictments on the systematic failures which allowed for the abuse of at least 1400 children in Rotherham.
Her report was shocking, in terms of the extent of abuse and negligence it uncovered but also because it was so bold in its candour.
Now she is reassuringly dauntless in the face of an investigation which will reach into the powerhouses of Britain, from Westminster and the BBC, to health services, schools, churches, charities and local authorities.
She said: “If abuse has been carried out by anyone, anywhere, it doesn’t matter where they sit in our hierarchy, it needs to be uncovered.”
The inquiry, set up amid allegations of a paedophile ring in Westminster, will see Jay tasked with investigating the handling of abuse within charities and voluntary groups, as well as local authorities and the justice system.
It will investigate abuses and any cover ups in England and Wales but its tentacles will inevitably touch Scotland.
Dame Lowell Goddard, the New Zealand judge running the five-year inquiry, has promised it will be transparent and lead to “meaningful change”.
This time last year, Jay revealed widescale grooming and abuse by largely Asian men in Rotherham and concluded it had been compounded by the authorities, including the police and social work, turning a blind eye.
She said: “The clarity and directness in my report was entirely intentional. Too often public documents use jargon and language which obfuscates what has occurred. I don’t know why that it is.
“People needed to know how bad that abuse was. Without resorting to gratuitous, lurid details, we wanted to be clear about what happened to these children.”
She is clearly angered that youngsters already vulnerable through social deprivation were made doubly so by the denials of the authorities tasked with protecting them.
She said: “Nobody could say, ‘We didn’t know’. Police labelled them as scrubbers and tarts.
“They continued to prioritise burglaries and car crime. They thought these victims weren’t worthy of having the abuse investigated as a crime.
“The social services at that time, when they were inundated with child protection referrals, also took a line that these were ‘lifestyle choices’.”
Over 16 years, gangs were able to target, groom and abuse girls as young as 11, with little to fear from the authorities.
Jay revealed a series of incidents in which children were gang raped, beaten, threatened and then dismissed and ignored by the authorities.
She described how in 2001 a 15-year-old girl was doused in petrol by her abuser who threatened to set her alight.
“The sexual abuse and rape of children in itself is so dreadful. However, when we looked in detail at cases, the kind of things that happened to these girls was absolutely shocking. The level of violence and brutality that was used, as well as the sexual abuse to control and humiliate them, was appalling.”
Her report drew a collective gasp and Jay found herself unintentionally in the spotlight.
With the anniversary of the report this week, interest has extended beyond our shores, with interview requests from news services such as CNN.
She said: “I believe that the impact of my report has been such that it has most certainly raised public awareness of the issue of child sexual exploitation. I expected it to attract a lot of attention but I hadn’t anticipated it would have had the effect it did. I am glad it did.”