A survivor of the Rotherham child exploitation scandal has called for a change in the law amid claims that the father of her child, who raped her as a teenager, was invited by a council to play a role in her son’s life.
Campaigner Sammy Woodhouse spoke out after reports emerged in The Times that Arshid Hussain, who was jailed for 35 years in 2016 after being convicted of 23 child sex offences, was told by Rotherham Council that he could seek visits from the child.
The newspaper said that Hussain, the boy’s father, was listed as a ‘respondent’ in a Family Court case involving the boy, and was therefore contacted by the local authority, who promised to keep him informed of all future proceedings.
The Times said that, during a hearing last year, Miss Woodhouse was told that the convicted sex offender would be allowed to attend court and make legal representations.
The story had initially been anonymised, but Miss Woodhouse revealed on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon that the child involved is her son.
The Times: ‘Jailed rapist given chance to see his victim’s child’.
Rotherham council have offered convicted rapist access to my son.
— Sammy Woodhouse (@sammywoodhouse1) November 27, 2018
In a video which has been viewed over 200,000 times, she said: ‘This story is about myself, about my son, about the man that raped me, and about the fact that Rotherham Council have offered him to apply for parental rights for my child.’
Miss Woodhouse said Hussain had been proved to be ‘a danger to myself and to other children’.
She added: ‘I’ve also been able to prove that he is a direct danger to my son.
‘This is happening all over the country, and it needs to stop.
‘Children are being removed [and] being given to rapists, to murderers.’
Miss Woodhouse, who told Good Morning Britain that she was ‘mortified’ after discovering her rapist may be able to visit her child, was one of the key witnesses in South Yorkshire Police’s Operation Clover investigation which led to a number of Rotherham men being given lengthy jail sentences in 2016, including Arshid Hussain and his three brothers.
She subsequently waived her anonymity and now speaks widely about child sexual exploitation and has written a book about her experiences.
The campaigner revealed on Tuesday that she and Louise Haigh, MP for Sheffield Heeley, are calling on the Government to change the 1989 Children’s Act to ‘ensure rapists can’t gain access to children conceived through rape and abuse’.
A Rotherham Council spokesman said that it could not disclose information relating to proceedings hearing in the Family Court, adding: ‘Like all councils we must comply with legal requirements, including Practice Directions, and that would include giving notice of proceedings to parents with or without formal parental responsibility.
‘Often and understandably, cases before the Family Court are emotive and arouse strong feelings amongst those affected.
‘We do understand that the legal requirements can cause upset to those involved and so we welcome a debate around this issue, which applies across England and Wales.’
A Ministry of Justice statement said: ‘This is obviously a very distressing incident and the relevant departments and local authority will work urgently to understand and address the failings in this case.
‘Local authorities can apply to courts to request permission not to notify parents without parental responsibility about care proceedings, and courts should consider the potential harm to the child and mother when making this decision.’
An NSPCC spokeswoman added: ‘We need to understand if this is a one-off failure or a system-wide problem that needs to be addressed, so no other survivor and their child have to go through the same trauma.’