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Support for Sammy’s Law grows

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Sammy's Law, royal pardon, abuse victims, coercion, police chiefs, Rape Crisis, Sammy Woodhouse‘Until this is done, we will continue to be being blamed for the horrendous experiences we endured as children’.

Police chiefs, police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and England’s children’s commissioner have backed calls for new legislation to pardon sexual abuse victims who broke the law while they were being groomed.

And in doing so, they have shown their support for a campaign by a Rotherham abuse survivor who is attempting to get teenage girls who were being groomed absolved of the crimes they were forced to carry out by their abuser.

Sammy Woodhouse, who was 14 when she was targeted by the ringleader of the Rotherham gang, was one of 1,400 children abused between 1997 and 2013 and committed a series of offences during her ordeal for which she has received a criminal record.

She has waived her right to anonymity so she could campaign for other victims and has now written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd requesting a royal pardon for other young victims who were coerced into committing crimes by their abusers.

Woodhouse said the fear of being prosecuted was stopping victims coming forward and preventing survivors from moving on with their lives.

In her letter to the Home Secretary, Woodhouse said: “I feel, until this is done, I and others will continue to be being blamed for the horrendous and traumatic experiences we endured as children. This cannot be right.”

Last year, eight men who sexually abused three teenage girls in the town between 1999 and 2003, were jailed at Sheffield Crown Court after being convicted of 16 charges including rape, false imprisonment and indecent assault.

The judge who sentenced them said their victims had been “targeted, sexualised and subjected to degrading and violent acts.”

And this week 12 men were charged with 44 child sexual abuse offences in Rotherham dating back almost two decades.

That brings the total to 21 of men charged with almost 100 child sexual abuse offences since the National Crime Agency launched Operation Stovewood – the largest investigation into historical child sexual exploitation (CSE) undertaken by law enforcement authorities.

The chief constables and PCCs of South Yorkshire and Bedfordshire forces, the director of children’s services at Rotherham Borough Council, Nottinghamshire’s PCC Paddy Tipping, and England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, have now backed her campaign for a ‘Sammy’s Law’.

And Rape Crisis England and Wales has also expressed its support for Sammy Woodhouse’s campaign. The first charity to do so.

A spokeswoman said: “We know that children who are groomed for sexual exploitation and sexual abuse can also be groomed or coerced by the same perpetrator(s) into committing crime.

“This is a tactic offenders use to further silence their victims, holding these crimes over them as a threat that, should they choose to speak out about the sexual abuse and exploitation they’re experiencing, they themselves will get in trouble or be punished, or not be believed or taken seriously because they’ve broken the law.

“Victims and survivors of sexual violence in childhood already have to live with the wide-ranging, often lifelong, sometimes devastating impacts of the abuse they’ve been subjected to.

“Expunging the criminal records they’ve acquired as a direct result of this terrible abuse is one way we can try to reduce the disadvantage that survivors and victims of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation experience, and support them to move forward positively with their lives.

“Sammy is a tireless campaigner for the rights of fellow victims and survivors, with first-hand knowledge and understanding of these issues, and Rape Crisis supports her in her campaign.”

And Rape Crisis continues to call for a full review and overhaul of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS), which, it believes, discriminates against victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation in a number of ways, including sometimes refusing claims on the basis of victims’ criminal records.

Woodhouse was, for example, initially told by the government’s compensation authority that she did not qualify for compensation because she “consented” to what happened to her. She was, if you recall, 14 when she was targeted.

Full details of Rape Crisis’s concerns about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme can be found in this submission to the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

Children and young people needing help can call Childline on 0800 1111.

Adults concerned about a child or young person can call 0808 800 5000.

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