Victim exposes Leeds grooming ring as police warn scandal not confined to Rotherham

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There could be “many more” cases of child sex abuse like that uncovered in Rotherham where at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited, a leading police officer has said, as the victim of a grooming ring in Leeds came forward.

The scale of the scandal is likely to be higher than previously thought, Norfolk Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey added, with tens of thousands of victims of the crime each year in Britain.

Mr Bailey, the national lead officer for the child protection and abuse investigation, told the Guardian the issue of child sex exploitation had “for too long been a hidden crime”.

He said: “We don’t know for sure but I think it’s tens of thousands of victims (a year) of an appalling crime”.

Mr Bailey said there may be more cases elsewhere in the country like that recently uncovered in Rotherham where at least 1,400 children had been exploited between 1997 and 2003.

Meanwhile a victim of sex abuse has accused Barnardo’s of blaming her for an incident which took place when she was a teenager in a flat owned by the charity.

The woman, who is now aged 37 but was 16 at the time of the abuse which she said took place in Leeds at the hands of a gang of men who had groomed her, said she is disgusted at a letter from a charity worker that criticised her.

Speaking to Sky News the woman, who had just recently left a care home before the abuse, told of a letter received in 1993 which stated that “the situation could have been avoided if (she) had not been party to the antics of a group of young men”.

The woman said she had been given drink and drugs before being assaulted.

She said: “Looking back, how I feel now is absolute disgust with predominantly Barnardo’s for knowing this happened, for blaming me for it happening and doing nothing about it.”

Barnardo’s said it will fully investigate the letter, and praised the woman for coming forward to recount what happened to her.

Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services at Leeds City Council, said the council will also investigate the matter.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report, published in August, questioned why highly placed public figures had not tackled the problem.

A number of high profile figures resigned following the report, including Rotherham’s strategic director of children’s services, Joyce Thacker, and South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright, who had been the councillor with responsibility for children’s services between 2005 and 2010.

Responding to criticism of the police for their investigations of sex gangs, Mr Bailey said it must be remembered that the majority of cases of child sex abuse take place in the home.

But he admitted that continued investigations into police forces across the UK could see “many more Rotherhams to come”.

He also warned that other figures in authority including teachers and health workers have a responsibility to look out for and report signs of possible child abuse.