Rotherham abuse: Researcher's warning 'ignored in 2002'

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Media captionAdele Gladman: "I had every aspect of my professionalism questioned"

A former Home Office researcher says a bullying culture at Rotherham Council led to her warnings of child sexual exploitation being suppressed in 2002, years before action was finally taken.

A report this month by government official Louise Casey concluded the council was not "fit for purpose".

The way many in the authority denied a 2014 finding children were exploited between 1997 and 2013 was criticised.

The council says it is investigating researcher Adele Gladman's claims.

At the time of the claims, Ms Gladman was undertaking research for a Home Office pilot. But she found her findings about the scale of sexual exploitation in Rotherham were also met with denial.

Previously, she has only spoken anonymously.

"What I didn't realise was just how many whistle-blowers there had been over the years and how many opportunities to change poor practice," she said.

"That has cost young people their health, their happiness and in some cases their lives. That is unforgiveable."

Ms Gladman was based at Rotherham Council when she carried out the work for the Home Office.

She describes being subjected to bullying and intimidation after her research found a small number of men, mainly of Pakistani heritage, were sexually exploiting a significant number of young people.

She says the council sent her on race awareness training and effectively suppressed her report.

"I had every aspect of my professionalism questioned," she said.

"I had every aspect of my work questioned. I had data removed over a weekend so that I couldn't substantiate my findings. Fortunately I had made copies."

She says the bullying she faced went beyond the local authority and remembers a police officer approaching her outside her office.

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"He and a colleague said words along the lines of 'Wouldn't it be a shame if these perpetrators found out where you and your family lived'.

"And I took that as a direct threat to my personal safety. The message was very clear."

South Yorkshire Police say they can not comment on that particular claim.

But in a statement they said: "We are still assessing the findings of the Louise Casey report and are absolutely committed to supporting the victims of child sexual exploitation, but recognise that more needs to be done.

"We will adopt the good practice and recommendations identified by the commissioners, victims and survivors panel to build on the progress made to date. We want to reassure the public that prosecuting offenders remains a top priority for the force."

Government commissioners are lined up to intervene after the report by Louise Casey, the director-general for troubled families at the Communities Department.

Rotherham Council says it accepts the findings of the report in full and it is waiting to hear when the commissioners will begin work at the authority.

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