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High-Profile CSE Charity Criticised by Rotherham Council Following Investigation

Sammy Woodhouse alleges she was “gagged” from speaking out, criticises Sarah Champion MP

From the Yorkshire Post:

Rotherham grooming scandal whistleblower Jayne Senior “let down” now-adult survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE) who sought her help through a publicly-funded charity she runs, a three-year £60,000 independent investigation has concluded.

Mrs Senior, a former youth worker who was awarded an MBE in June 2016 for her work in exposing the nature and extent of CSE in the South Yorkshire town and was elected as a Labour councillor earlier that year, has been strongly criticised in a 124-page report investigating allegations against her by 12 complainants.

A second article in the paper specifies that six of the complainants had been service users, and that out of the total number of 12, three complaints had been upheld, four had been partially upheld, and two had not been upheld – oddly, this leaves a further three complaints unaccounted for.

The upheld allegations are that Senior had acted “beyond the professional boundaries of her official capacity” in directing individuals to her service and to a particular legal firm (Switalskis Solicitors), and that complainants’ stories had been “inappropriately shared” and “misrepresented”, including in Senior’s 2016 memoir Broken and Betrayed. Apparently, Senior has admitted that she “amalgamated” accounts, explaining that she did so to protect anonymity, but this was seen as “distorted representations of their abuse” by some of those involved. There is no suggestion that she gained financially from her actions.

Given Senior’s role in exposing the Rotherham scandal, this was a story of some delicacy, although it has been in the works for some time – the journalist concerned, Chris Burn, has described it on Twitter as “probably the hardest, most complicated and in many ways the saddest story I’ve ever covered”. In response to suggestions that this was Rotherham Council maliciously going after a whistleblower who had exposed the council’s failings, Burn replied that “Rotherham Council failed to listen to victims in the past – in this case they took concerns raised with them very seriously and ordered an investigation.”

Inevitably, some of the criticism has tipped over into wider allegations of wrongdoing, and the investigation has certainly been controversial – the Post notes that “in April 2018, Rotherham Council apologised to Mrs Senior for delays in informing her and the charity about the allegations made”, and this was reported at the time in the Guardian. The nature of these “delays” is concerning; as the Guardian reported:

During the visit the officials refused to tell either Senior or the charity’s trustees why they were being investigated, saying they had not finished interviewing the complainants.

But the ombudsman found that they had in fact completed the complainants’ interviews four days before the raid, and yet waited another eight months, until 16 August 2017, to tell Senior what claims had been made against her.

The same article also contained strong criticism of the investigation by Sarah Champion MP (previously blogged here) – Champion’s support is unsurprising, given that in 2014 she secured funding to “appoint” Senior as “a specialist in child sexual exploitation, specifically to support the 1400 victims from Rotherham and ensure they get the justice they deserve”.

One high-profile figure who supports the investigation and its outcome is the Rotherham anti-CSE activist Sammy Woodhouse. Woodhouse says that she has been “gagged” from talking about the subject for three years, and she alleges that harassment has occurred. She also argues that the Labour Party ought to take action against Senior, complaining that “Yet again Labour are exploiting people in Rotherham”, and she is particularly critical of Sarah Champion: “Myself and others have been disappointed with her from the moment we told her. She wasn’t interested. This is the reason I no longer support her.” [UPDATE: Woodhouse has since confirmed that she was the Yorkshire Post’s source for getting the report]

Among those supporting Senior is Esther Baker, who at one time lived locally. A few days before the Yorkshire Post article was published Senior announced on Twitter that she was “Just having coffee with @Esther9982 , reviewing information , throwing a few ideas around”; and after the report was published, Baker announced that “The person who made these complaints is a person who I saw kick the daylights out of a young girl in Rotherham bus station. The same person sent confidential info of mine to an abusive person putting me in danger.”

Baker made headlines a few years ago with allegations that she had been subjected to repeated ritualised abuse in woodland while growing up – she claims that police officers stood guard while the abuse took place, and that one perpetrator was addressed as “Lord”, indicating that he was a judge. Her claims have never been substantiated despite extensive police investigations, and she is now embroiled in civil legal action brought against her by the former MP John Hemming. Baker has frequently referred to VIP abuse conspiracies (in particular in support of claims made by Carl Beech), and like Senior she also enjoys the confidence of Sarah Champion.

ln 2018, Senior posed with Jon Wedger alongside a giant presentation cheque made out for £2000, which Wedger had raised through sponsored activities. Wedger is a high-profile promoter of “VIP abuse” conspiracy allegations, including claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse. More recently, he has branched out into anti-BBC activism, focusing on news coverage of Syria and Tommy Robinson.

UPDATE (August 2019): Apparently related to the above, Baker has now attacked Sammy Woodhouse on Twitter over a report in the Sunday Mirror that Woodhouse and her sister have opened café, described as “offering youngsters somewhere to go instead of hanging around on street corners” and as “a place which some families of sexual abuse victims have visited”. Baker’s interpretation of this was that the café was in fact “advertising that vulnerable teens are available on tap in a cafe”, and that Woodhouse was “using abuse & those who may be vulnerable” to promote a business.

Baker received some criticism for this, including from an account apparently run by Woodhouse’s sister, who replied with “Esther you don’t know us you are going on what Jayne Senior has told you which once again she shouldn’t be discussing.” Baker’s response, as with her abuse allegations, was to suggest that there is further context which she could provide but for some reason is choosing not to: “Well you should have seen the last 4 years of it that I’ve put up with from that bloody lot then” (here); “If people want me to get personal and drag up memories of what happened in those days then if this shite continues I’ll do just that” (here); and, via a meme image: “Very few know the story behind the story, so if you’re not one of them be quiet”.