‘Rotherham child sex scandal could not happen in Herts’

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Social issues
A child sexual exploitation scandal the likes of which were uncovered in Rotherham could not be repeated in Hertfordshire, county council and police experts have said.

Herts County Council’s opposition spokesman for children’s services Mark Watkin met with the authority’s director of children’s services and operations director of safeguarding, Jenny Coles and Sue Williams, to establish whether a similar programme of widespread child sexual abuse could be happening in the county.

They, along with investigators from the county police force, confirmed this could not be the case.

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According to the authority, Herts has a higher number of more foster carers looking after single young people, so co-ordinated abuse as seen further north in Rotherham would be far more difficult to set up.

South Yorkshire Police force and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council were criticised for their handling of the abuse and for failing to supervise what was going on in privately-run homes for young people between 1997 and 2013.

Liberal Democrat Mark said: “While one can never say that organised sexual abuse of children in Hertfordshire could never happen, I can say that the children’s services and the police work extremely closely to prevent anything like this happening to our children.

“I will continue to press the service’s leaders to ensure that there is no complacency in children’s services and I will challenge the status quo when it is not up to scratch.”

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But the county’s police and crime commissioner David Lloyd, who lives in Flamstead, Dacorum, believes crime and community agencies must make a constant effort to work together to prevent such abuse, on both the small and large scale.

He said: “While I do not believe there to be any equivalent problem here in Hertfordshire, we must never become complacent.

“It requires a constant effort to re-examine and re-evaluate whether police and its partner agencies are doing their best for the vulnerable people they come into contact with and victims in general.

“And we shouldn’t also forget the bigger picture either. As children’s charities will point out: while these gangs have perpetrated heinous acts against children, the fact is that most abuse against children goes on within families and behind the closed doors of their own home.”