Hundreds of grooming gang victims are suing Yorkshire authorities

David Greenwood, a partner at Switalskis solicitors which is representing 95 victims taking legal action against Yorkshire authorities
David Greenwood, a partner at Switalskis solicitors which is representing 95 victims taking legal action against Yorkshire authorities

Hundreds of grooming gang victims in Yorkshire are suing the authorities that failed them when they were being abused.

Seven Yorkshire councils are currently facing compensation claims from child sexual exploitation victims, while dozens of cases are being brought against South Yorkshire Police for its part in the Rotherham scandal.

Using Freedom of Information laws, The Yorkshire Post uncovered 212 outstanding legal claims against Barnsley, Bradford, Kirklees, Leeds, Rotherham and Sheffield Councils, as well as South Yorkshire Police.

More than 45 cases involving the authorities in Yorkshire have already been settled with payments in the past five years.

One victim, who received compensation from Calderdale Council following the convictions of 17 of her abusers and a serious case review which uncovered how a lack of coordination between professionals had failed to protect her, said the money she has received has helped her rebuild her life after having her childhood taken away.

“The compensation money will get me a mortgage and give my children security,” she said.

The extent of Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation problem was revealed five years ago when an independent inquiry by Professor Alexis Jay found there had been at least 1,400 victims in a 16-year period in the town, largely at the hands of Pakistani-heritage men, and uncovered major failures by the local council’s social services and South Yorkshire Police.

Multiple criminal trials of perpetrators have taken place since then after the National Crime Agency was brought in to investigate.

Many of the outstanding legal claims against Yorkshire authorities relate to the Rotherham scandal.

South Yorkshire Police has settled 19 claims but has 71 outstanding cases against - with 69 relating to Rotherham and two connected to issues in Sheffield.

The force was unwilling to say how much compensation has been paid out to date but did reveal it had spent £1.4m on legal fees and paid a further £137,900 to claimants’ solicitors so far.
Rotherham Council has settled 18 cases against it, with 67 outstanding and current legal costs of £1.4m.

Bradford Council is facing 49 outstanding claims and Kirklees Council 17. The latter council revealed it had paid out £78,000 in compensation to three claimants in the past five years.

Bradford Council would not say how many cases it has already settled citing data protection reasons as the number in each of the past five years “was less than five”. Calderdale Council gave the same reason for not revealing numbers of settled claims but said there were no outstanding matters

There are five outstanding cases against Barnsley Council, which has already paid out £82,900 to five other claimants.

Two claims from CSE victims have been made against Leeds Council and one against Sheffield Council.

West Yorkshire Police requested more time to answer a Freedom of Information request, saying it was still determining whether it was in the public interest to confirm or deny any details.

David Greenwood, a partner at Switalskis solicitors which is representing 95 victims taking legal action against Yorkshire authorities, said: “Compensation is fundamental to recognising the harm done in these cases. It must be paid where councils and police have responded badly. It should sting the public authorities every time they get it wrong. That way they will they get it right every time.

“On an individual level it is impossible to generalise about what it represents to survivors of abuse. It means different things to different people. For some money gives an opportunity to get back into education or to improve living conditions blighted by not having left school for the world of work. Some want to get into good therapy. One lady plans to have dental work done to replace teeth lost through her drug use caused by exploitation. Some do what most of the adult population does - spend it on their children.

“Contrary to the public perception of the ladies I represent, each of them has been thoughtful, hasn’t wasted it and has recognised that compensation can bring them hope for a better quality of life.”