A member of a Pakistani grooming gang was offered the chance for his victim’s child to come and visit him in prison by council chiefs, it has been revealed.
The details emerged after the council sought a care order, with the consent of the mother, from the family courts. In such cases, anyone with a legal “parental responsibility”, must be informed. However, the rapist was not on the birth certificate of the child, and has no legal ties to him, yet the council still made sure he was kept informed of the case anyway. The man in question was part of a grooming gang that committed offences against dozens of girls.
Sammy Woodhouse, who was 15 when she was raped by the man, said she was “extremely distressed” to learn of the offer:
I was gobsmacked. The council knew what he did to me and to other vulnerable girls. They knew he was behind bars and a risk to my son, who wanted nothing to do with him, but they bent over backwards to include him in the case. I felt angry and scared for my son.
Louise Haigh, the shadow police and crime minister, branded the case “appallingly insensitive”:
They handed him an invitation to retraumatise his victim. No man who has fathered a child through abuse or rape should have the right to apply for custody or visitation rights in the family courts.
Victims Commissioner Baroness Newlove said the decision was “perverse”, arguing that the courts were simply furthering the abuse and trauma she has already suffered at the hands of the rapist.
The Ministry of Justice said in a statement that they were investigating the case, and would determine whether it was down to the mistake of a social worker, or evidence of greater systemic failings.
Last month, 6 British-Pakistani men were convicted at Sheffield Crown Court for a litany of sexual offences that took place between 1998 and 2005 in Rotherham. This was the biggest prosecution so far of Operation Stovewood, the police’s investigation into grooming gangs.
The rapist has been named as Arshid Hussain, who was jailed for 35 years in 2016. He was one of three brothers behind the grooming and rape of more than 50 girls.