Patient dying of thirst rang 999 to get water — still died of dehydration
Constant requests for nursing attention by himself and his mother were ignored or greeted with lies until he died
A young patient who died of dehydration at a leading teaching hospital phoned police from his bed because he was so thirsty, an inquest heard yesterday.
Officers arrived at Kane Gorny’s bedside, but were told by nurses that he was in a confused state and were sent away. The keen footballer and runner, 22, died of dehydration a few hours later.
A coroner had such grave concerns about the case that she referred it to police.
Yesterday an inquest was told how Mr Gorny died after blunders and neglect by ‘lazy and careless’ medical staff at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South London.
His mother Rita Cronin, a civil servant told Westminster Coroner’s Court that staff tutted at her and repeatedly refused to listen to her concerns that her son hadn’t been given vital medication.
At one point he became so desperate and upset that staff sedated and restrained him – and on the night before his death, his mother said, he was not checked on by medical staff, despite being in a room on his own.
Following his death, a nurse allegedly inquired whether the family, from Balham, South-West London, was ‘finished’ and asked a matron in front of them whether she could ‘bag him up’.
Mr Gorny, who worked in Waitrose and was training to be a locksmith and shoe repairer, had survived a malignant brain tumour in 2008.
The cancer affected his pituitary gland, which controls the body’s mechanisms, such as fluid levels. Part of his treatment included a course of steroids to regulate the fluid levels in his body. These drugs, however, weakened his bones and he was in hospital for a routine hip replacement.
Doctors told him that, without regular medication to control his fluid levels, he would die. When he arrived at hospital for the hip operation, nurses assured the family they would give him his medication and said: ‘Don’t worry, he’s in good hands – we’ll look after him.’
But, despite the repeated reminders and insistence by both Mr Gorny and his family, staff failed to give him the tablets and he became severely dehydrated after being refused water.
In an interview with the Daily Mail in 2010, Miss Cronin said of the nurses who treated him: ‘They were lazy, careless and hadn’t bothered to check his charts and see his medication was essential. He was totally dependent on the nurses to help him and they totally betrayed him.’
Yesterday Miss Cronin told the inquest she received a distressed phone call from her son on May 27, 2009, in which he told her he’d called the police because he was so desperate for a drink.
She then went to the hospital where she found him ‘confused and angry’, shouting at staff and behaving in an uncharacteristically abusive manner.
Despite this, one doctor asked if he was ‘coming off the booze’ and another asked if he was ‘always like this’. Miss Cronin said: ‘He sounded really, really distressed. He said “They won’t give me anything to drink”. ‘He also said “I’ve called the police. You better get here quickly: they’re all standing around the bed getting their stories straight”.’
When Miss Cronin arrived, she recalled: ‘They weren’t doing anything. They seemed out of their depth. It felt like the two locum doctors were nervous about calling anyone more senior than them.’
The inquest heard Mr Gorny was restrained by security guards and sedated with strong medication to calm him down. Later, he was put into a side room and left alone. Miss Cronin said she sat in his room for three hours the night before he died without a single nurse checking on him or giving him vital medicine.
She said she told a nurse who walked past the room that Mr Gorny had not had his medication. When Miss Cronin volunteered to return to the hospital should he wake, another nurse allegedly told her: ‘You don’t need to do that. If he makes noise, I’ll close the door and then he won’t wake everyone up.’
She added: ‘I later realised that her comment was unbelievable but I was so distraught that it didn’t register.’
The morning of her son’s death, May 28, 2009, Miss Cronin arrived at the hospital early to find him delirious with swollen lips and a swollen tongue.
She recalled: ‘I then heard three nurses outside his room and I said: “There’s something wrong with my son. He doesn’t look right.” ‘The nurse said to me “He had a good night. There’s nothing wrong with him and he’s just had breakfast and a chat with us.” ‘I thought: “How could he have had breakfast? There’s no evidence (of breakfast).”
‘The nurse carried on her handover then I interrupted again and said: “He’s not right.” ‘The other nurse then tutted and said: “She’s already told you he had a good night.” And with that the three of them walked off.’
Miss Cronin said she then noticed that her son hadn’t been given his medication because the packet was still on the table by his bed. She told the locum doctor about her concerns, but the doctor said it wouldn’t do him any harm.
A doctor doing the rounds then checked on Mr Gorny. Miss Cronin said: ‘He took one look at him then he started calling to everyone “Get in there quickly”.
‘It suddenly dawned on me he hasn’t had his medication, hasn’t had his bloods done, nobody’s given him a drink, nobody’s bothered to put his drip back on him. ‘Nobody’s done anything since yesterday afternoon when he became aggressive.’
She said there was a ‘flurry of activity’ and everyone ‘had a very sad look on their face’ as they battled to save her son’s life. Miss Cronin said: ‘The main doctor came out and you could tell he was really angry. He said: “You need to go and see your son. He’s dying.”
The couple then found their son lying in blood and fluid-soaked sheets and a nurse came in and asked them to help her to change them. The same nurse later came into the matron’s office and asked whether they were ‘finished’, adding: ‘Can I bag him up?’
The death certificate said Mr Gorny died of a ‘water deficit’ and ‘hypernatraemia’ – a medical term for dehydration. [Probably hyponatremia — insufficient salt (NaCl)]
Nurses at the hospital were said to have been offered counselling as a result of Mr Gorny’s death.
The inquest continues. The case is still being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service.
A licence to abuse patients: They’ve attacked and stolen from the vulnerable in their care. But why are so few rogue nurses struck off?
Just what does it take for a rogue nurse to be struck off from their professional register?
Any reasonable person would surely believe that committing offences such as threatening or abusing confused patients, stealing from frail, elderly people, being drunk on duty or just being dangerously incompetent should be right at the top of the list.
But too often the profession’s official regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), has decreed otherwise. Instead, it has allowed nurses found guilty of such crimes to remain in charge of patients.
Today, the regulator’s overseer, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, has released a hard-hitting report demanding fundamental changes in the way the NMC is run.
As a Daily Mail investigation reveals, this is not before time.
For not only has the body failed in important cases to protect vulnerable patients from rogue staff, it has run its administration system so badly that, even when such nurses have been disciplined, the sanctions against them did not go on their professional records for employers to see. This occurred in at least 500 cases, of which around 100 were ‘of major concern’.
Never before has there been such worry over the safety of our relatives and loved ones in care homes and hospitals.
Last week, patient-care watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reported that almost half of all care homes and treatment centres in England are failing to protect the welfare of vulnerable adults.
Its report comes in the wake of the shocking abuses uncovered by BBC’s Panorama at the Winterbourne View home near Bristol.
Unannounced inspections by the Care Quality Commission were carried out at 145 care homes and hospitals in England. Nearly half did not meet required standards.
Meanwhile, the nurses’ regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, has seemed concerned less with protecting patients from harm than with saving the careers of nurses who have seriously transgressed the laws of their profession and the basic tenets of human decency.
Last month, for example, a nurse who was sacked for hitting a patient and charged with common assault by the police was allowed by the NMC to remain working. The council’s disciplinary panel heard how Maureen Yoliswa Booi, a Registered Mental Nurse, struck a resident in her care at an NHS-run unit. The incident was witnessed by a colleague, the hearing was told. Ms Booi was dismissed by her employer and has since been charged with common assault.
But instead of being struck off, she was placed under a ‘conditions of practice order’ for 18 months, which stipulates that Ms Booi must not, at any time, be the sole registered nurse on duty, and that she must tell the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the outcome of her pending prosecution for assault.
This means she is free to apply for a job with any employer, though the NMC requires that she tell them that there is an ‘order’ on her record.
This is perturbing enough as an isolated judgment, but it has remarkable similarities to another case heard last month, of Loveness Makombe, a registered nurse working at the Bupa-run St Christopher’s Care Home in Hatfield, Herts.
The NMC panel found her guilty of ‘shouting aggressively’ at a confused elderly patient, as well as verbally threatening the woman, who had dementia, and dragging her out of a room ‘in a manner that caused her to become distressed’.
Rather than cracking down on this abuse, which bears disturbing similarities with the sort of intimidation exposed at Winterbourne View, the disciplinary panel said it ‘does not believe there is an under-lying attitudinal or behavioural problem with the nurse’.
The sanction it handed down amounted to a regulatory slap on the risk — it placed only a ‘caution’ on her record for a three-year period.
Similarly, in May, Beverley Cooney, 40, was allowed to continue nursing by an NMC disciplinary panel after it had heard from her manager, Susan Holliday, head of clinical services at a private East Yorkshire hospital, how Cooney had told a vulnerable woman patient: ‘If you don’t go to sleep I will fetch a rubber hammer from my car and hit you on the head with it.’ Cooney was also found guilty of repeatedly swearing at other members of staff, and regularly swearing about patients when discussing them with staff.
As a result of these transgressions, Ms Cooney was sacked by her employer, the Spire Hospital in Anlaby, Hull.
Nevertheless, she was allowed by the NMC to continue nursing after the disciplinary panel decided the complaints were about her ‘attitude and behaviour’ rather than ‘clinical abilities’. She was placed under a conditions of practice order, which required her to work with a mentor and take an anger management course.
In fact, the NMC has repeatedly been warned about its soft-touch approach before these recent judgments were made.
In September, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence (CHRE), issued a bulletin that outlined cases held in the past two years where it had to tell the NMC panels to improve their performance. The bulletin says that in one case, a nurse named only as O’Reilly had been physically violent to a vulnerable elderly patient, as well as shouting abuse at them, at an unidentified hospital. But the NMC panel had put only a caution on the nurse’s professional record.
This is because, though nurses should be struck off for harming patients, the panel interpreted ‘harm’ as physical.
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence says the patient appeared to have suffered psychological harm, as she was left seriously distressed after the incident — as, indeed, anyone would be when attacked by someone who is supposed to be in charge of their care. It said it had given the NMC panel specific guidance on not repeating this error.
In another alarming case cited by the CHRE, a nurse named only as Mrs Marshall had illegally cashed a number of large cheques from an elderly resident at a care home where she worked over a period of two years. Though the panel found the nurse’s fitness to practise was ‘impaired’, it only put a caution on Mrs Marshall’s professional record. This was after it concluded that she had not been dishonest.
The CHRE describes this as ‘wrong’, adding that the nurse ‘had behaved in a way that most people would regard as dishonest’.
Once again, the NMC panel had decreed that the patient had suffered no harm, because she had not suffered actual physical injuries.
Most damningly, in September Harry Cayton, chief executive of the CHRE, harshly criticised some panels for siding with nurses in blaming patients as the cause of their malpractice. He cited one case where the nurse had received a police caution for battery of a patient. ‘The NMC panel’s determination commented on the “very challenging behaviour” of the patient, who was elderly and had dementia.’
In another case he cited, a nurse who physically threatened a patient who had suffered a stroke. The panel said the patient was ‘difficult and time-consuming’.
Such comments ‘appear to take the side of the nurses rather than promoting dignity and respect for the vulnerable patients whom they ill-treated,’ Mr Cayton warned.
‘The panels’ decisions should have made it crystal clear to nurses and to the public that patients’ “difficult” behaviour can never excuse abuse.’
Moreover, he stresses: ‘“Challenging” behaviours in those with mental incapacity are a symptom of their condition and are exacerbated by bad care. ‘The regulator’s panels need to remember that if health professionals can’t cope with caring for people who exhibit “challenging” behaviour, they should choose another area of care.’
Perhaps we should just point out the principal function of the NMC, as set out in 2001: ‘The main objective of the council in exercising its functions shall be to safeguard the health and well being of persons using or needing the services of the registrants (or nurses, to put it in layman’s language)’.
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients’ Association, laments the problems with NMC decisions: ‘Patient safety must be the priority of any healthcare professional. ‘Clearly in some of these instances there are examples of appalling care that should never have been allowed to happen,’ she says.
‘Individuals such as these do a disservice to the thousands of dedicated nurses who work incredibly hard in difficult conditions.
‘To be allowed to continue on the register is disappointing. We hope another patient is not made to pay a heavy price for these decisions.’
The reticence within the nursing profession to crack down on members’ misconduct explains why the CHRE is calling for a change in the law, so practising nurses or midwives are barred from taking the top job at the Nursing & Midwifery Council. The CHRE also recommended that there should be more laypeople than nurses on the NMC’s ruling council. The aim, clearly, is to rid the NMC of the kind of professional self-interest that can prompt soft-touch disciplinary procedures.
Mr Cayton has said ‘serious problems’ have emerged because the council had ‘seen itself as a body to represent nurses rather than a body there to protect the public’.
Certainly, something radical needs to be done with the troubled regulator. In its new, highly critical report published today, the CHRE says the council has been riven by infighting, with ‘dysfunctional relationships among its former chair, council and chief executive’.
The NMC is being run by a temporary chief, after its chairman and chief executive departed abruptly in recent months.
Meanwhile, the disciplinary procedures are dogged by a significant backlog of cases. The new CHRE report says about 1,500 cases are still awaiting investigations and hearings. These could take between two and three years to clear, the NMC’s interim chief executive, Jackie Smith, warned in April.
On top of this, the NMC is facing a growing number of nurses being referred to it for disciplinary investigation. Last week, it said it had received 4,407 referrals in 2011 — up nearly 50 per cent from 2009.
It says many of these are frivolous, citing the case of a nurse referred for taking two paracetamol off a drugs trolley, and another nurse removing a banana from a patient’s locker.
Given the loss of trust in the NMC’s disciplinary procedures, though, the council may have trouble convincing patients and professionals that its disciplinary panels appreciate the difference between frivolous and serious.
In 2010, 164 nurses were removed from the NMC register — around 0.02 per cent of the 671,000 listed.
As the CHRE report today says: ‘The NMC is not inspiring confidence in the professions or in regulation.’
Just as worryingly, the regulator recently admitted IT errors on an admin system called WISER had left hundreds of nurses and midwives with inaccurate registration records, in some cases involving cautions and striking-off orders.
So employers may, in good faith, have taken on nurses whose records seemed spotless, but should, in fact, have revealed serious disciplinary dangers.
When the NMC revealed the problem in May, it told the journal Nursing Times it had found 400 mistakes, of which 100 were of major concern and were being urgently rectified. It expected to find more mistakes before its audit of the problem was completed. The Nursing and Midwifery Council declined to comment on how many more mistakes had been found on its record.
Nor would it comment directly on the recommendations about its need for restructure, on the cases cited as lenient by the CHRE or on what it is doing to tackle the backlog of disciplinary cases.
The NMC would point only to the fact that today’s CHRE’s report recognised: ‘The NMC’s response to our review is encouraging. ‘It has co-operated fully and there has been considerable activity recently under the direction of the interim chair and chief executive.’
As today’s CHRE report concludes: ‘The NMC must finally leave its past behind and transform itself into a modern, effective regulator that protects the public well and so inspires public and professional confidence.’
For the sake of all vulnerable patients and their worried relatives, we can only hope it does.
‘Nightmare’ plans for 6-month paternity leave to be rewritten after opposition from British businesses
Ministers have been forced to rethink plans to allow parents to share leave after the birth of a child following opposition from business and campaigners.
The plans, announced in the Queen’s Speech and championed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, would see maternity leave end at 18 weeks and allow fathers up to six months’ paid paternity leave.
Ministers say the measures will offer more flexibility to families with woman breadwinners, and would allow fathers to spend more time with children.
But businesses said the proposals would result in a ‘nightmare’, increasing red tape because workers could take their leave in ‘chunks’ of weeks or months.
Employers would be forced to keep jobs open and would not be able to refuse requests for the time off.
And women’s groups have called for a minimum of 26 weeks’ ring-fenced maternity leave, saying any less would pressurize new mothers to return to work.
The issue also caused a cabinet split with ministers – including Chancellor George Osborne – arguing the proposals should be scaled back.
Now Whitehall sources have revealed that while the Coalition remains committed to parental leave, ministers are having to rethink the plans to keep business on board. One said: ‘It is frustrating to have been attacked by people who ought to be in favour of what we are doing, but we need to address their concerns.’ Insiders admit it may not be possible to introduce all the planned changes before 2015.
Currently mothers are entitled to take 12 months’ maternity leave, of which nine months are paid, and fathers can take two weeks’ paid paternity leave.
Last year a Government consultation proposed that mothers should automatically get five months’ paid maternity leave, while fathers should get six weeks’ paid leave. The couple would then be allowed to ‘share’ a further seven months of parental leave, with all but the last three months paid. This means that if the mother chooses to go back to work after five months, the father can have six paid months off.
Business Secretary Vince Cable was expected to respond to the consultation before the summer recess but the Department for Business said that no date had been set.
Adrienne Burgess, of the Fatherhood Institute, urged the Government not to backtrack. She said: ‘The proposals are an opportunity to offer families real flexibility and choice and would have a transformative effect in many homes.’
English anti-Muslim group joins up with young Sikhs
Sikhs have been fighting Muslims for hundreds of years
At first, the dozen white men mingling with 300 or so Sikh demonstrators besieging Luton police station went largely unnoticed.
They stood on the fringes, content to observe. But as the night wore on and the intensity of the protest increased, the white men grew more raucous and aggressive. What was remarkable about their presence was that they were members of the far-Right English Defence League.
They had turned up to express support for their Sikh ‘brothers’ who were angry at the way detectives had handled an allegation that a young Sikh woman had been sexually assaulted by a Muslim man.
The EDL makes no secret that it loathes Islamism, but stresses that, unlike the British National Party, it embraces all other creeds.
That said, when EDL supporters have taken to the streets in the past they have done so with St George’s flags and banners bearing inflammatory slogans.
In Luton all 12 men, including EDL leader Tommy Robinson and his right-hand man Kevin Carroll, wore a rumal, the traditional Sikh headscarf.
That night – May 29 – racial tensions had risen in the multicultural town and this time it was Luton’s usually equable Sikh community that was angry.
Bringing traffic to a standstill, female protesters lay down in the dual-carriageway that splits the town centre. Others demanded answers from individual officers.
While there was much anger and plenty of noise, there was no violence, and by midnight it was all over. Yet that night a curious alliance was formed.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has established that the leadership of the EDL has aligned itself with groups of radical Sikhs from Luton, the West Midlands and other parts of the country, who are furious that young women in their communities are, as they see it, being sexually exploited and groomed by British-Pakistani Muslims.
Two days after the protest, Sikhs and EDL members held a secret meeting in Luton to discuss a joint response to the problem. Both sides are said to have favoured acts of vigilantism.
There has been unofficial contact between Sikhs and the EDL for some time, and the links were cemented at the protest.
Asked about the secret meeting, Mr Robinson said: ‘Who told you about that? We can’t comment on exactly what we will do with the Sikhs but we will do whatever we can to work together, raise awareness and combat the problem.’
When pressed about plans to carry out vigilante acts, Mr Robinson – who earlier this year was the focus of a Channel 4 documentary called Proud And Prejudiced – said:
‘When the police fail to protect the community, when they fail to protect daughters, we have to protect them. ‘We live in a community where Muslim paedophile gangs are operating without police pressure. If a Sikh girl is attacked in Luton that is my problem because she is a member of my community. ‘I class everyone in my community as everyone who is non-Islamic.’
The EDL has held many demonstrations across the country since it was formed in Luton in March 2009 after Muslim radicals disrupted a homecoming parade by the Royal Anglian Regiment. It has become the most significant far-Right street movement in Britain since the National Front in the Seventies.
Nick Lowles, director of the anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, said: ‘We are aware there has been contact between the EDL and a small group of radical Sikhs. But there is nothing to be gained by anyone in the Sikh community linking up with the racist EDL. ‘We need to tackle the issue of child exploitation, but it needs to be a community-wide response.’
While the EDL supporters in Luton were welcomed by some, the town’s Sikh elders viewed their presence at the protest as opportunism.
They accuse EDL leaders of trying to hijack the protest and exploiting difficulties between their community and the town’s large Pakistani Muslim population.
The issue of grooming is at the heart of that discord. The group of radical Sikhs says it receives about three calls a week from Sikh parents fearing their children are being targeted.
There have been few prosecutions, however, largely because the issue touches upon notions of honour and shame.
Jasvinder Singh Nagra, of the Luton Gurdwara temple, said: ‘Young girls of school and college age are being targeted by men from the Pakistani community.
They are duping them into believing they are in love and it all comes to grief because they are treated as sex toys. ‘A small proportion of the Pakistani community feel it is fair game to go for Sikh and Hindu girls.
‘In the past, the Pakistani community have not taken this seriously and neither have the police. They have not looked into the role played by coercion or blackmail.
‘We know that at colleges and universities you have young Muslim men wearing the kara [a bangle worn by Sikhs] to pretend they are part of the community, or they change their names to pretend to be Sikh and our girls fall for it.
‘Before they know it they are with this man and then compromising photographs will be taken of her. She will be threatened with having these shown to her family and the fear of losing honour is a very powerful tool to make her do what the man wants.’
But Mr Nagra said protest organisers did not share EDL’s values. ‘The arrival of the EDL was a total surprise to me,’ he added. ‘They were there to try to make an alliance over what they felt was a common issue. It caused a great deal of anxiety because we wanted, above all, for the protest to be peaceful.
‘The EDL leaders were showing off to our young people by being very aggressive in the way they spoke to the police, pretending to be doing it out of solidarity. ‘I would advise our young people not to be lured down the EDL route of taking the law into our own hands and vigilante activity.’
In response, the day after the protest, some 40 leaders from the Sikh and Muslim communities met at the Gurdwara to discuss their differences in a two-hour meeting. Mr Nagra said: ‘I was delighted that so many people from the Pakistani community came.’
Zafar Khan, of the Luton Council of Faiths, who chaired the meeting, said: ‘The idea that there is an orchestrated campaign by young Muslim men to target young Sikh women is totally insulting and wrong. This is the language of the EDL.’ He added: ‘The threat of the EDL is very great in Luton. We have a lot of experience in dealing with them and that is why we reacted so promptly. ‘Now we will meet every couple of months to talk about inter- community issues.’
A Bedfordshire Police spokesman urged anyone with evidence of grooming of people ‘from any faith or group’ to come forward, but added that there was nothing to indicate that ‘systematic’ grooming of Sikh girls was taking place in Luton.
Backgrounder: UK underage sex ring sparks racial tensions in England
She was lonely in the way only an adolescent girl can be: No friends, no boyfriend, not much of a relationship with her parents. So she felt special when a man decades older paid attention to her, bought her trinkets, gave her free booze.
Then he took her to a dingy room above a kebab shop and said she had to give something back in return. His demands grew: Not just sex with him, but with his friends. It went on for years, until police charged nine men with running a sex ring with underage girls.
The story of Girl A, as she became known in court, is tragic by any measure, but it has also become explosive. Because there is no getting around it: The girls are white, and the men who used them as sex toys are Asian Muslims, mostly Pakistanis raised in Britain. And it’s not just Rochdale — roughly a dozen other cases of Asian Muslim men accused of grooming young white girls for sex are slowly moving to trial across northern England, involving up to several hundred girls in all.
In today’s Britain, which prides itself on being a tolerant and integrated society, the case has stripped away the skin to expose the racial sores festering beneath. It is also feeding an already raw anger against the country’s Asian Muslim minority, in a movement led by far right groups at a time when the economy is stalled.
“You can’t get away from the race element,” says prosecutor Nazir Afzal, a British Muslim with family roots in Pakistan who ended several years of official indifference to the girls’ plight and finally brought the perpetrators to trial. “It’s the elephant in the room.”
From a distance, Rochdale looks like a picture-perfect English city, with the 800-year-old Parish Church of St. Chad perched high above the streets, and the Victorian Gothic Town Hall just below, its clock tower resembling the one that houses London’s Big Ben.
Up close the flaws become clear. Like missing teeth in an otherwise sparkling smile, a fair number of downtown shops are boarded up, or have been turned into pawn shops or dueling “pound shops” where almost all items cost 1 pound ($1.60) or less.
The Pakistani community started to grow half a century ago, when the town’s cottons mills were flourishing. The newcomers, most of them from poor rural villages, were drawn by the promise of steady jobs and a chance to educate their children in English schools.
A number of mosques became part of the skyline, particularly the showcase Golden Mosque, winner of several design awards. Today, Muslim men wearing beards and decorated caps and women in black robes and veils are a constant presence on the downtown streets.
Nearly 1 million Pakistanis live in England — far more than in any other European country — with about 25,000 settled in the greater Manchester area that includes Rochdale. The government’s equality commission reports that more than half of the Pakistanis in Britain live in poverty, far more than the general population, with just under 75 percent having no formal savings.
They face hard times now. The closed shops are signs of a double-dip recession that has hit northern England harder than the more affluent south, which includes London, with its financial district and well-to-do suburbs.
The mills have long since closed; the local newspaper trumpets gloom and doom: A tripling in the number of homeless, a sharp rise in youth unemployment, more people seeking housing benefits.
Even the local McDonald’s, long a fixture in the town center, has moved out.
It was in this environment that Girl A lost control one summer night in 2008.
After drinking heavily, the 15-year-old went to the kebab shop in nearby Heywood where she had first met her “boyfriend.” She started screaming and busting the place up. When police were called, she told them she had been raped — repeatedly — and offered up her semen-stained underwear as proof.
Greater Manchester Police detectives concluded the girl, who was below the age of consent, was telling the truth, but Crown Prosecution Service lawyers recommended against pressing criminal charges, reasoning that the jury might not believe a troubled, hard-drinking, sexually active young girl. The case was quietly dropped after an 11-month inquiry.
The abuse intensified. The ring of predators grew; the circle of victims widened. Eventually there would be at least 47 victims or witnesses.
The girl was driven around at night, forced to have sex with more and more men, sometimes up to five a day, in cars or restaurant backrooms or grubby apartments. The men threatened her if she complained. There seemed to be no escape.
She was trapped in a secret world of sex acts that took place late at night when most people in Rochdale were safely tucked away in their homes.
The Rochdale men do not fit the classic profile for sex offenders in Britain — the majority of pedophilia crimes are committed by white men who target boys and girls via the Internet. However, there is a consensus among prosecutors, police, social workers and leading national politicians that “street grooming,” which happened in Rochdale, is largely dominated by Asian men.
Ella Cockbain, a University College of London crime science specialist, says research shows that mostly Asian men make up the big groups of offenders who work together. She chooses her words carefully because the sample size is small and the topic sensitive.
“There are definite patterns emerging that would be foolish to ignore,” she says.
Mohammed Shafiq, a British Pakistani who directs the Ramadhan Foundation in Rochdale, has angered some in his own community by suggesting that police at first did not pursue the case aggressively for fear of appearing racist because of an obsession “with the doctrine of political correctness.”
Shafiq says that a “tiny minority” of Pakistani men feel white girls are worthless and immoral — and can be abused with impunity.
“They know if they took someone from the Asian community, it pretty quickly is going to be found out,” he says. “But those white girls are available, so they think they can get away with it.”
The men in the Rochdale sex ring were remarkable only in their ordinariness. They were part of British life, but on the fringes — the sort of people most Britons don’t really notice when they pass them on the street.
Many were taxi drivers, accustomed to working all-night shifts with long down time between fares, and they frequented the late-night kebab takeout shops offering familiar lamb, chicken and falafel dishes. Their cab stands and the kebab shops were often the only businesses that remained open after the bars closed.
Most of the men were first or second generation Pakistanis raised mainly in Britain. Only one had faced previous sex charges: Ringleader Shabir Ahmed, at 59 the oldest in the group, who was accused of repeatedly raping a young girl in a separate case. Ahmed, known to the girls as “Daddy,” was convicted of 30 counts of rape in that case last week.
Some of the men had families and small businesses. The ring included Abdul Rauf, 43, who would later claim to have experience as a Muslim preacher, which local Islamic leaders dismiss as a total fabrication. A few had ongoing contacts with local politicians.
The men were neither affluent nor dirt poor. They lived outwardly stable lives but had few obvious prospects for advancement.
They were finally brought to justice after health workers reported a large increase in the number of underage girls in the Rochdale area claiming to have suffered sexual abuse. The next year, Afzal, the new regional chief of the Crown Prosecution Service, reversed the earlier decision by prosecutors and decided to press the case in court, with Girl A at its core.
“It was a no-brainer,” Afzal told the Associated Press. “She was immensely credible. And the police now had evidence of a wide network.”
Eleven men were charged with offenses ranging from rape to conspiracy, and police suspect more were involved. The men had such psychological power over the girls that even during the trial, one girl talked of a defendant as her boyfriend.
Parliament has launched an inquiry based in part on reports that the abuse is far more widespread than originally thought. Afzal said his office is handling roughly a dozen other similar cases, including one that involves 13 men accused of operating a sex ring with 24 girls.
Afzal says that as a Muslim he is sickened by the crimes.
“Rape and alcohol and abuse are not part of Islam,” he says. “Just because they have a beard and go to the mosque doesn’t make them good Muslims.”
As the Rochdale trial reached court, the issue of race and religion burst into the open.
One far-right protester carried a sign making reference to the meat favored by many observant Muslims because it meets strict religious guidelines. “Our girls are not Halal meat,” the sign read.
Inside the court, Ahmed, a key defendant, fought back hard. He accused the all-white jury of racism. He accused one girl of thinking whites were superior, and denigrated them all as greedy money seekers. And he accused white society of neglecting its girls and tolerating, even encouraging, bad behavior.
“You white people train them in sex and drinking, so when they come to us they are fully trained,” he said.
The jury found nine men guilty and set two free. Judge Gerald Clifton articulated what many felt but were reluctant to say out loud when he accused the men of treating white girls as worthless because “they were not of your community or religion.” Then he sentenced them to a total of 77 years in prison.
The May verdict further polarized Rochdale. Pakistanis were horrified at the stigma on their community and enraged that the men claimed to be Muslim.
“They are playing the Muslim card, pretending they are good Muslims, but they are not,” says Irfan Chishti, who runs an educational program at one of the town’s mosques. “This was a great sin under Islam. If Sharia law was in place, the punishment would be very severe.”
Even while he and other leaders of the Rochdale Council of Mosques were discussing the case, about 40 protesters from the far-right British National Party held an unauthorized rally on the nearby Town Hall steps. The far right has seized on the case, claiming that some British Pakistanis follow a code they believe is practiced in parts of the Islamic world that allows men to have sex with girls under 16.
Louis Kushnick, founder of the race relations resource center at the University of Manchester, said it has become convenient for white residents — including those beyond the far-right movement — to blame Muslims for the sex crimes.
“You hear people talking about this, and it becomes tied to Islam,” he says. “People say they are Muslim men, they see women as inferior, they have contempt for white women, so it has nothing to do with the rest of us.”
That view overlooks all the problems that left the girls vulnerable in the first place, he says, citing a deficient school system and a government-backed child care regime riddled with neglect and abuse. And he says the prolonged economic downturn has intensified resentments, with whites and Asians competing for the same “crap” jobs.
“Blaming the Muslims lets us avoid addressing these questions,” he says. “Once we blame ‘The Other,’ we think we have an explanation that makes sense.”
Many in Rochdale are wary about discussing the case. Graduate student Heather Eyre, 25, says the trial has badly divided the city.
“It shouldn’t have mattered that they are Pakistani,” she says of the abusers. “But it’s stirred up hatred. Some say they should be deported, and some parts of the Asian community say the jury was racist. Then the far-right groups came in…this case has been good for the English Defense League.”
The girl who first told police about the abuse, now a young woman of 19, has moved out of the area. In a brief pooled interview before she withdrew from the public eye, she refused to call the crimes against her racial in nature, but said she was shocked Muslims would commit such acts.
She said that in 2008, when the grooming began, there was no awareness of this type of crime involving Asian men and white girls.
“Now it’s going on everywhere,” she said. “You think of Muslim men as religious and family-minded and just nice people. You don’t think…I don’t know…You just don’t think they’d do things like that.”
When the abuse started, she said, she felt anger and shame, then became resigned and, finally, numb.
“After a while it had been going for so long and so many different men that it became like I didn’t feel anything towards it anymore,” she said. “It just weren’t me anymore. It just became something I had to do….Once you’re in it, you’re trapped. I just think what they did to me was evil.”
British exam boards HAVE dumbed down as they compete to offer the easiest papers
Exam standards have dropped because boards are competing to offer the easiest papers, a damning year-long inquiry has found.
An influential committee of MPs concluded that the current system allows boards to ‘strip out’ content from GCSEs and A-levels so they can boast to schools that their exams are ‘more accessible’.
The public has been forced to endure years of denials that grade inflation exists even though they can see it ‘with their own eyes’, they said.
The verdict is a vindication for Education Secretary Michael Gove, who has demanded curbs on competition between exam boards to stamp out grade inflation.
At present, up to six boards set exams in each subject and schools choose which one they wish to use.
In an attempt to tackle a culture of ‘competitive dumbing-down’, Mr Gove is proposing to allow only one board to design an exam in each subject.
The Commons education select committee today backed the thrust of the reforms but suggested instead devising a single national syllabus for each subject and allowing boards to set question papers against it. This would remove incentives to dumb down courses and ‘race to the bottom’ while still allowing the benefits of competition, it was claimed.
Committee chairman Graham Stuart said a system of single national syllabuses would prevent exam boards ‘making out their syllabus is more accessible than someone else’s’. He added: ‘It would get rid of the perverse incentive to strip out content from a syllabus, to strip out the richness of learning from a course in order to make the course supposedly more accessible, in truth to make it easier.’
He highlighted embarrassing undercover filming last year which showed a senior geography examiner for the Edexcel board telling a reporter, posing as a teacher, that ‘you don’t have to teach a lot’ and there was ‘a lot less’ for pupils to learn than with rival exam boards.
Steph Warren admitted she did not know ‘how we got it through’ the official regulation system that is supposed to ensure high standards.
Mr Stuart said: ‘We conclude that competition between exam boards creates significant pressure to drive down standards in exams, and that the time is right for fundamental reform.
‘We have got to stop the dumbing down of the courses young people sit and stop exam boards competing on how accessible their syllabuses are.
‘There has been grade inflation. There has been a denial it’s going on while the public can see with their own eyes that it’s happening.
‘If you have people denying obvious truths they see in their own lives they will lose confidence in those who are vouching for that system.’
Last month, the Daily Mail revealed that Mr Gove was planning to scrap dumbed-down GCSEs and bring back rigorous O-levels.
Leaked documents showed he has drawn up a blueprint which would tear up the current exam system as well as abolishing the National Curriculum. …and Gove’s wielding the axe on dead-end courses
Michael Gove warned yesterday that hundreds of thousands of teenagers were being steered towards dubious vocational courses ‘which do not benefit them’.
The Education Secretary spoke out as he unveiled funding reforms aimed at spelling the end of pointless courses and getting many more 16-year-olds to train to be plumbers, chefs and electricians.
The overhaul of school and college funding for 16 to 19-year-olds is expected to lead to the decline of courses such as the Certificate in Introduction to Cabin Crew, nicknamed the course in becoming a ‘trolley dolly’. The City and Guilds course, which is taken by around 2,300 a year, involves 150 hours of teaching, but it does not ‘require or prove occupational competence’ and fails to meet airline requirements.
Schools and colleges will also be encouraged to offer ‘substantial’ vocational qualifications, which are recognised by employers.
These might include a City and Guilds Diploma in Professional Cooking, which takes two years and includes plenty of practical work or a BTEC in Children’s Care, Learning and Development, which also combines theory with practical training.
The Department for Education reported that the number of pupils taking courses in construction trades had halved in a year, between 2008/09 and 2009/10.
Yet a third of vacancies for tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians had been attributed to shortages of workers with these skills.
The shake-up follows a devastating review of vocational qualifications by Professor Alison Wolf, of King’s College London, which condemned many as ‘dead-end’.
Mr Gove said: ‘Around 1.6million 16 to 19-year-olds are in education each year, but as Professor Wolf stated in her review, as many as 350,000 are on courses which do not benefit them. Reform is vital.’
The Education Secretary is not withdrawing the lesser-quality courses but he is removing cash incentives for schools and colleges to offer them.
This could lead to the institutions withdrawing the courses.
In addition, for the first time, teenagers who fail to achieve a C in GCSE English and maths will be required to continue studying the subjects until the age of 18. The move is designed to answer concerns from employers who complain that school-leavers too often lack mastery of basic skills.
British schools could be made to teach pupils about gay marriage once it is passed into law
Officials at the Home Office and the Department for Education concede that teachers may be under a legal obligation to inform children about same-sex marriage once it has passed into law.
Under the Education Act 1996, pupils must learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life in sex education classes.
Critics said the documents, released under freedom of information laws, demonstrate that plans to introduce civil marriage ceremonies for gay couples in addition to existing civil partnerships, could have far- reaching and unintended consequences.
In March, an unnamed official at the Government Equalities Office, part of the Home Office, emailed a member of staff at the Department for Education, asking whether the introduction of same-sex marriage will affect schools’ legal responsibility to teach marriage.
The Education Department official appeared to admit the issue has not been considered, saying the email had ‘helpfully flagged up the needs for the department to address the issue and be clear about its implications’.
In another email the Equalities official warned of the possibility of ‘walking into a minefield on this’.
By late March, the Education Department had prepared a document on the impact of the law, which concedes: ‘There may be a need for the SRE [sex and relationship education] guidance to include some additional material in respect of same-sex civil marriage.’
The document says it is important the parents are consulted about their school’s sex education programme, and if a majority are unhappy, headteachers should consider changing it.
It adds: ‘If parents remain concerned, then ultimately they have the right to withdraw their children from sex education lessons.’ But Tory MP David Burrowes questioned whether schools will be able to exercise discretion on the subject.
‘The issue of same-sex marriage is not just one about equality, but what happens in our school classrooms as well,’ he said.
‘Teachers should be able to exercise their consciences according to their own views on marriage, but that could well be constrained by these proposals.
‘As much as I am sceptical about the Government being able to exempt churches from conducting same-sex marriages, I also doubt whether it will be possible to construct exemptions for teachers.
‘They would be open to legal challenges. Is the Government really going to order primary school teachers to go against the views of the churches that run them?’
Colin Hart, campaign director at the Coalition for Marriage, said: ‘Marriage appears more than 3,000 times in law, affecting every aspect of our lives. It is simply impossible to redefine it without many serious unintended consequences, not least forcing schools to teach children about gay marriage, even if this goes against the wishes of the parents, children and teachers.’
Ministers are committed to introducing legislation on same-sex marriage before the next general election in 2015, despite strong objections from church leaders.