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Social worker who blew whistle on police 'child sex grooming inaction' arrested after news report

ESSEX News and Investigations editor Jon Austin looks at how a child sex grooming investigation in Hull was re-opened and charges could now follow nearly four years after a social worker blew the whistle on alleged police inaction:

A SOCIAL worker who blew the whistle to a journalist on alleged police inaction over child sex grooming allegations in Hull was arrested by the force he spoke about on the day the report was published, Essex News and Investigations can reveal.

The then agency social worker for Hull City Council, who no longer wishes to be named, had previously been suspended by the local authority for allegedly breaching confidentiality after earlier making similar claims.

He was an agency social worker for the city council when he contacted Essex News and Investigations editor Jon Austin in September 2019.

The man raised concerns about Humberside Police, social services and local MPs not taking seriously allegations that a grooming ring, similar to those that have operated in Rotherham, Rochdale and other parts of the country, was abusing young girls in Hull.

He also disclosed that he had seen statements made by some of the alleged victims who claimed to have suffered horrific sexual abuse.

However, he said one of his social worker colleagues had described some of the underage and teenage girls as acting like prostitutes, even though those under 16 could not legally consent to sex.

In the published interview at the time, the social worker said: “I know what is going on in Hull and know girls are being trafficked and I am letting politicians know, and like the man who is in debt, they do not want to open the letters, and so the problems are getting worse.

“One social worker told me he was sat around a table to discuss 14 year old girls having sex with men.

“This young social worker piped up, ‘This girl is a prostitute and it’s a lifestyle choice’.

“And we wonder why we have a grooming epidemic.”

He claimed that rather than prompting action, his raising of concerns ended up with him being suspended by Hull City Council in September 2018.

It came after the council lodged a fitness to practice complaint about him to the Health and Care Professions Council.

The council claimed he disclosed confidential information to a third party via an email, but was unable to provide any evidence and the man was cleared.

After being contacted by the whistleblower on September 12 2019, Jon put his allegations to Humberside Police, social services and the local MPs.

Humberside Police claimed it was untrue that it was not doing anything and said it was at a sensitive stage of the investigation.

It asked Jon to hold off on publishing the claims, saying it was in the final stages of making some arrests.

The force pledged to let Jon know as soon as the arrests had been made so he could run a story on this.

In the week commencing Monday, September 30 2019, the force revealed to Jon it had arrested six men on suspicion of being involved in cross-county border child sex grooming.

Jon ran the story on Sunday, October 6 reporting that "the suspects, aged 24 to 43, were held by Humberside Police this week after concerns raised by a retired social worker, who claimed there had been a lack of action against child sex abuse, had been put to the force.

Detective Superintendent Mat Hutchinson said at the time: “Four girls have disclosed offences to us between 2017 and 2019.

“Offences against two of the girls have been reported to have taken place in Hull, with offences against the other two girls reported to have taken place outside of Humberside.”

The report included the social worker's claims of inaction by police, social services and MPs.

Mr Hutchinson dismissed his claims of inaction. He said: “We carried out initial investigations into all offences that have been reported, including outside of our force area, as it was imperative we developed a full picture.

“We have been working with the girls, alongside support agencies and specialist teams, to help and encourage them in providing information and evidence.

“This is a lengthy and complex investigation and while action was taken as soon as disclosures were made to police, it has been our priority to spend time helping the girls with difficult conversations.”

He added: “Any reports of sexual offences and exploitation will always be taken seriously.”

Hull West MP Emma Hardy and Hull North MP Diana Johnson (above) also confirmed in the report that the social worker had frequently contacted them with concerns about sex abuse and both had advised him to contact police.

We can now reveal for the first time, that the source was arrested by Humberside Police on the evening of October 6 2019, the same day that Jon's first report of his claims was published.

The social worker said at the time: "I was arrested Sunday night and my phones and computer confiscated. I was kept in cell on Sunday evening for two hours and the cops played a stupid game with me. I am a mental health professional the whole arrest was staged managed."

Police who arrested him that night said it was on suspicion of harassment in connection with emails he had sent several weeks earlier.

He accepted that he had adopted an angry tone in some of his communications due to his frustration at the lack of action.

He added in an email to Jon after his arrest: "I told the police Sunday night they were in denial. It was almost as though I was the interviewing officer. The charges they allege is that I had said another social worker had a fat ar*e. It was a total joke. But they kept me there for five hours.

"The arrest was stage managed and it was definitely about the article. Jon, what I have just been told to me and the information I have collected, is not only staggering, it is frightening.

"If the arrest was about my saying a social worker had a fat ar*e, why did they ask me to name the police officers who gave me the information? What does that have to do with a social worker having a fat ar*e?

"They arrested me for harassment of someone I had met only once and never contacted and spent three hours questioning me on where I got the information on grooming and have refused to release my interview video.

The social worker also told how after his arrest, police placed a caution on his Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check, which he claimed was later removed after he threatened to make further disclosures.

He said: "It's been a mess for me. I refused a caution for the trumped up charges and said I wanted to go to court and I was backed up.

"The cops put a caution on my DBS and it stopped me working. I told the police if they did not take the caution off my DBS I would create an all mighty stink. I refused the caution and said it would be their biggest mistake if they charged me.

"I warned them I had emails and my constant warnings to police that a girl would get murdered if the sex assaults in Hull were not address and sadly I was proved right. with Libby Squires. The cops have now removed the caution on my DBS and my Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) is now clear."

Humberside Police insisted that the source was arrested by different police to those investigating the grooming and it was only in respect of the alleged harassment.

The force insisted the timing of his arrest was purely coincidental and in no way connected to his speaking to the media.

About ten months later Jon was contacted by one of the alleged victims, who said the girls had been told by police that the whole case had been dropped with no charges.

He made enquiries, including with Humberside Police, and prepared a follow up report, with a pledge from the force it would issue a statement.

However, instead, it later sent a letter from one of its top officers, which urged against any publication about the case.

The letter argued that a "highly complex and sensitive investigation" was ongoing, there had been a number of arrests, and any report could prejudice subsequent proceedings.

In December 2020 the force revealed to Jon it had made two more arrests during the investigation, bringing the total to 34, leading to this report.

About four months later Humberside Police confirmed it had shut the case after exhausting all enquiries with no charges brought.

It led to a special report highlighting the disappointment of the alleged victims amid claims there had been huge swaths of evidence.

Jon Also did an in-depth report on failings in the case of one alleged victim who went missing 106 times over 30 months while she was moved between care homes across the country by East Riding of Yorkshire Council social services.

She claimed to have come into contact with about 50 abusers and been raped multiple times from the age of 14, with investigations by multiple police forces leading to nothing.

She had been warned by police not to speak to the press and was also arrested after Jon made enquiries with the force about her case.

It was about an alleged assault that had happened two months earlier in April 2021, but the force had made no attempt to arrest her until July 2021, after receiving questions from the editor of this website.

However, it insisted that the July 2021 arrest of the teenager was carried out by different officers to those investigating the alleged grooming and in no way connected to that investigation or any media interest in the case.

She was later released and police even provided her with a new mobile phone.

Jon's reports were picked up by the Maggie Oliver Foundation, which was set up by former Greater Manchester Police detective Maggie Oliver after she resigned from the force and turned whistle-blower over its failings in investigations into child sex grooming gangs in Rochdale.

They were also seen by Operation Hydrant, a national police initiative, which looks at historical sex abuse cases for local police forces and can refer investigations for review.

Jon's story was also picked by Sky News.

After about a year, in July 2022, Operation Hydrant confirmed it had referred the case back to Humberside Police, which confirmed a month later it was re-opening the investigation.

A year on and it has now emerged that at least two more alleged victims have reportedly come forward.


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