Sammy Woodhouse has campaigned tirelessly over the years for awareness following her brave disclosure of the abuse she suffered as a teenager.
The bestselling author of ‘Just a Child’ contacted The Times newspaper in 2013 and handed over evidence that proved she was abused and failed by authorities.
Her story was published and this triggered the Alexis Jay report, which exposed 1,400 children being abused and failed in Rotherham.
A police investigation, Operation Clover & Operation Stovewood was also launched into all non-recent child abuse cases in South Yorkshire, becoming the biggest investigation in the UK.
The investigations which followed exposed Rotherham grooming gangs who committed serious child sexual exploitation crimes over an extensive period which spanned from approximately 1987 until 2003.
In February 2016, Sammy’s abuser Arshid Hussain was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison alongside 5 others, for a total of 102 years. There were four trials in total under Operation Clover & Thunder, 21 survivors, 20 criminals and a total sentencing of 290 years 6 months.
When Sammy was 15, the police raided the property of now-convicted serial rapist Hussain. Sammy was half-naked and hiding under his bed. Hussain was not detained, but Sammy was arrested and charged. Sammy had been coerced into committing assault and possessing an offensive weapon, by the notorious gang leader.
Just like Sammy and others like her, those convictions are still required to be disclosed to any prospective employer. For anyone in this position it means, that to explain such convictions and criminal records they will need to disclose their abuse.
The aim of implementing Sammy’s Law would be to ensure children are not charged for committing crimes whilst being groomed or coerced. Further, the Government must consider putting something in place for children that have already gained a criminal record due to being abused, as this is preventing them from moving forward.
John Boutcher, the Former Police Chief Constable supported Sammy’s campaign to stop victims of abuse being criminalised. He said “It cannot be right that victims are fearful of coming forward to the police or other organisations because to do so they are potentially placing themselves in jeopardy of prosecution. We must provide reassurances to those victims that are placed into a world of crime by their torturers and provide victims with an exit from their abuse. This pathway out of abuse should avoid victims being criminalised where they support a prosecution against their abusers, by so doing it is far more likely that we will put their tormentors where they belong, behind bars. Abusers will deliberately manipulate their victims into crime so that they can then further control them through both a fear of the criminal justice system as well as the more traditional methods of violence and intimidation to subdue resistance to their will”.
MP Louise Haige also supports the implementation of Sammy’s Law. She said Judges in the High Court have already ruled that forcing victims of CSE to disclose past convictions linked to CSE is unjust. They argued that, any link between the past offending and the assessment of present risk in a particular employment, is either non-existent or at best extremely tenuous. I’m calling on the Government to bring forward what is known as Sammy’s law, which would give CSE victims the right to have their criminal records automatically reviewed, and crimes associated with their grooming removed. At present, anyone has the right to apply to the chief constable of their force area to have their records reviewed, but it is little known. Sammy and victims like her, have been repeatedly failed by the state. They were failed by our legal system, by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service, by local authorities and by Government at every level. The Government must now ensure that the state no longer fails CSE survivors. Sammy’s law would help to achieve that.
You can find out more about the campaign Sammy’s Law here. The website also provides guidance for any parent who has concerns their child may be being groomed.
If you are concerned about abuse you may be suffering or wish to discuss this and are under 18 your can contact Childline on 0800 1111.