On the streets of Rotherham, you will occasionally see a white mother shepherding along a darker-skinned child who is not the product of a loving relationship, but the shameful legacy of the epidemic of sex grooming of girls by heartless Asian gangs that began decades ago.
Only recently has the true scale of this atrocious crime become apparent, after being covered up and denied for years by the police, social workers and council officials.
Paralysed by institutional political correctness and fears of being called racist, the very bodies responsible for safeguarding the vulnerable in society refused to investigate what was happening.
Sammy Woodhouse was raped as a teenager and gave birth to her son aged fifteen – but the baby’s father was only jailed in 2016
When I first exposed the sex grooming epidemic in this South Yorkshire town back in 2010, little did I realise that these same organisations — aided by secretive family courts — were compounding the nightmare suffered by hundreds of victims.
But now it has emerged that mothers who chose to keep the children conceived during their ordeal have been tormented by social workers, councils and judges demanding that the rapists responsible should have a say in their children’s lives.
This week, a brave victim called Sammy Woodhouse waived her anonymity to insist on a change in the law that, apparently, encourages such a thing to happen. She revealed that her jailed abuser, serial rapist Arshid Hussain, was invited by Rotherham council officials to seek access to him.
The council says it is only following family court directions. Yet anyone with a scintilla of humanity would be appalled that it was considered appropriate for Hussain to be consulted on the boy’s care.
Ms Woodhouse has understandably demanded new rules to ensure that ‘no rapist will ever be able to access a child conceived of rape or abuse’.
Within hours her Twitter posting had been viewed 300,000 times and her demands have since been endorsed by MPs including Rotherham’s Sarah Champion and Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh. They are calling for ministers to issue ‘crystal-clear guidance’ on the law to make sure rapists and abusers have no right to comment on the future of their victims’ children. The Government pledged yesterday that it will work urgently with Rotherham council to ‘address the failings in her case’. It described the nightmare of Ms Woodhouse as ‘a very distressing incident’.
Arshid Hussain (pictured) raped and impregnated Woodhouse then asked to get visits with the child
Yet as Ms Woodhouse points out, her case is far from a one-off. ‘This isn’t just happening to me,’ she says. ‘This is happening all over the country. It’s wrong and it’s got to stop. Children are being removed, being given to rapists and murderers, for their families to have access.’
She has asked for other mothers to come forward and share their experiences of the family courts where these alarming diktats about rapist fathers seeing their children are rubber-stamped.
A seemingly unrepentant Rotherham council — which presides over a town where no fewer than 1,400 girls, some only ten, were ensnared by grooming gangs over 16 years — responded by saying ‘like all councils we must comply with legal requirements and that includes giving notice of proceedings to parents with or without formal parental responsibility’.
It is a shocking response but one that, sadly, does not surprise me. When I was first contacted by distressed mothers about sex grooming scandals plaguing towns and cities across Britain — it has affected 72 such places, according to a Commons research document — I was repeatedly assured by police forces in Yorkshire and Lancashire that they were not happening.
The gangs did not exist, I was told. The girls were crying wolf. And their frantic parents — many decent, upright people who begged in vain for the authorities to help rescue their daughters — were hysterical and over-reacting.
A spokesman for one Northern police force told a Muslim charity to inform me I was on the wrong track. He told the charity not to help me with my investigation because ‘sex grooming of girls by Asian gangs does not happen’. The charity duly refused to co-operate with me about the scandal happening in front of its eyes.
I have been informed by a former councillor in Rotherham that when the terrible truth about the horrors in the town started trickling out publicly, some local politicians frantically held a closed-doors meeting to discuss whether the laws could be changed so that sex with underage girls was no longer illegal. The offensive suggestion would, some of them argued, take the heat off their male relatives in the gangs.
I know of an alarming case in a Midlands city plagued by grooming gangs where social workers recently told a victim that her daughter, in the process of being removed against her will for forced adoption, would have to be handed to a new family with the same cultural and religious background as the rapist who fathered her.
The truth is that a pernicious combination of officialdom, political correctness and craven institutions hiding behind an interpretation of the law devoid of all common sense and compassion has led to monstrous injustices.
Yesterday, a former social services director at Dorset County Council said Sammy Woodhouse’s case illustrated the ‘perverse contemporary fashions and ideologies underpinning the notion that the perpetrators are “victims” and hence deserve equal status to those whom they abuse’.
Robin SeQueira blamed politicians for creating a ‘legal and social framework’ that allowed such attitudes to thrive.
Ms Woodhouse was a teenager when she was groomed by her rapist Arshid Hussain known as ‘Mad Ash’
For Ms Woodhouse is right — her case is far from unique. I know of a young woman living on the outskirts of London who was groomed by a sex gang which kept her in captivity for years after snatching her from the street as a teenager.
They forced her to have multiple abortions. But by hiding her pregnancies from the men, she gave birth to a boy and, more recently, a girl, each fathered by different members of the violent gang.
The boy, little more than a toddler, is being well looked after by this mother, helped by her own family. But that has not stopped social workers trying to introduce the rapist father into his life.
They told the rapist he could ‘get involved’, according to a family friend. ‘He turned up at the family court where the boy’s future was being decided. The mother was shaking from top to toe at the sight of her abuser.
‘She became angry when he was consulted about access to his son by the judge.’ The friend added: ‘The sex groomer put on a good show. He cried crocodile tears, admitting the boy was his son. But finally, to the mother’s relief, he said it was better for the child to have a new life away from him.’
As for the girl’s daughter, there was another near escape. The child’s father was tracked down by social workers and told that he could apply for ‘parental responsibilities’.
But when he was informed that criminal record checks would have to be done on him and his entire extended family if he was to care for the child, he disappeared.
Arshid Hussain was jailed for 35 years after being convicted of raping Ms Woodhouse and assaulting young girls. He was shot in the stomach in 2005 and now uses a wheelchair
The scandalous behaviour of social services towards this young mother was raised in the House of Lords recently by Baroness Cox, a crossbench peer who campaigns on behalf of grooming-gang victims.
‘It is appalling that she was forced to confront one of her alleged rapists at the court hearing where he was asked about his son’s upbringing,’ she said. ‘How can the courts and social services allow this cruel treatment?’
The mother herself told me: ‘Across the room at court was the man who beat me and conceived my son through an act of rape. Up to that point, this man had shown no interest in the care of his son and was being, potentially, introduced by social services as an influence in his life. The idea keeps me awake at night with horror.’
What is so poignant about this woman — and brave Ms Woodhouse, who spoke out with the permission of her son — is that both clearly adore their children.
Other sex-victim mothers I know in Rotherham, Oxford, Rochdale and Derby also love their offspring — despite the shocking circumstances of their conception.
Which makes it all the more despicable that, after everything they have suffered, they have to countenance the prospect of the criminals who abused them being part of their children’s lives.