Plans for a late-night Pakistan-themed food and drink venue have been rejected after concerns about local child sex exploitation and anti-social behaviour were raised by police and local government.
The rejected plans would have seen hot drinks and snacks served between 11pm and 2am from a container unit in the car park of a car wash in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. The applicant claimed that the container would serve as a meeting place for the “Asian” community late at night, and as a refuge for Muslim women fleeing “hate crime” in the Yorkshire town, according to The Huddersfield Daily Examiner at YorkshireLive.
But councillors rejected the application after parties including South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council’s children and young people’s service highlighted fears over increased anti-social behaviour in the area, which is thought to be a hotspot for child sexual exploitation and prostitution. A local Muslim defence group has slammed the decision, saying the local government is tarring all Pakistanis in the area with the same brush after a series of high-profile child sex scandals involving the local community.
Rotherham Council’s Keeley Ladlow told a virtual meeting of the licensing sub-committee this month in comments reported by YorkshireLive that “the main concern is an increase in anti-social behaviour that might occur from the premises being open between 11 pm and 2 am”. She noted that the Eastwood neighbourhood where the car wash is located is “an area of concern regarding child sexual and criminal exploitation”.
“There’s also been significant work in intelligence to suggest that there is the offering of young women to men in vehicles to engage in sexual activity, and also prostitution in the area,” she said.
Ms Ladlow, who is senior licensing enforcement officer at the council, added that the area around the car wash and container unit is regularly filled “with young children who are missing from home, who can often be seen walking and playing on Fitzwilliam Road ‘very late into the night'”.
South Yorkshire Police also raised concerns, telling the virtual meeting that it “could lead to an increase in anti-social behaviour in an area that is already subject to a public space protection order.”
A representative of the business argued that it was necessary to have the late-night license so that, as YorkshireLive described, “members of the Asian community would have somewhere to eat a late evening meal and socialise over tea”. He said the business had given free meals to NHS workers and wanted to put something into the community, saying there was a lack of hangouts for the Asian community in Rotherham.
Further, the company’s representative said the container in the car park of a car wash would “provide a place for women in the community who do not want to go to bars and pubs because of their religion or fear of hate crime a place to go in the evenings”.
As local newspaper The Sheffield Star reports, some in the community have now objected to the venue being rejected on child protection grounds. The paper cites the remarks of Muhbeen Hussain, the founder and leader of the ‘British Muslim Youth’ organisation — who was profiled in a January 2020 Guardian article about Muslim “neighbourhood protection groups” offering protection for mosques and imams — whose group said the decision of the council had exposed their “racism”.
Hussain told the paper: “I have no words at how Rotherham Council is treating the local Pakistani Muslim Community. For too long, the crimes of few that we all stand against, have been levelled at the whole community.
“I have never heard of people being I.D’d for buying a cup of tea. The conditions that were placed on this business are so absurd, and yet everyone on this Licensing Committee including the representatives from the council and the police saw this as perfectly normal. This is why it is so dangerous.
“This is what happens when you become a suspect community. Criminals are criminals but will the whole community have to pay a price for a crime they have not committed?”.
In an open letter to the leader of the town council, Hussain demanded the town fire the whole licensing committee and replace the members with “a new diverse panel”, that elected councillors be suspended, that all future decisions be made through a lens of “BAME people”, and that all council employees undergo bias training. To do any less, he said, would make the leader of the council “complicit in this racist and discriminatory culture.”
Earlier this year it was found that police in Rotherham ignored decades of sexual abuse by ‘Asian’ grooming gangs against young girls for fear that racial tensions would “erupt” in the minster town.
A report from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in January revealed that a chief inspector had told the father of a girl that “we can’t afford for this to be coming out as Rotherham would erupt”, due to the fact that perpetrators of the abuse were “Asians”.
Describing the epidemic of abuse as “P*** shagging”, the policeman admitted he was aware that it “had been going on for 30 years and the police could do nothing because of racial tensions”.
“With it being Asians, we can’t afford for this to be coming out as Rotherham would erupt,” said the chief inspector.
Grooming gang victim Sammy Woodhouse spoke out last year after figures from local authorities exposed how almost 19,000 children had been sexually groomed over a period of 12 months.
Asserting that authorities have failed to bring in any meaningful changes since the extent of sexual abuse in the town was revealed, she said claims that “lessons have been learned” were “bulls***”.
“I’ve said for years that this country’s in epidemic when it comes to abuse and exploitation. Authorities claim it’s under control but it’s not,” the Rotherham survivor stated.