A survivor of the Rotherham grooming gang has today spoken of her fear at her rapist walking through her front door thanks to a ‘disgraceful’ decision to give him access to the child he fathered.
Arshid Hussain, 43, the ringleader of the notorious gang, was not named on the boy’s birth certificate and had no parental responsibility for the child, who was born after his mother was raped, aged just 14.
Despite this, Hussain, who is serving 35 years in prison for multiple rape offences against nine victims – some as young as 11 – was contacted last year by officials from Rotherham Council, who said he had a right to see the boy.
Last night the boy’s mother, Sammy Woodhouse, 33, waived her anonymity to identify herself as a rape victim, as she revealed she was left ‘scared and angry’ by the council.
This morning she told Good Morning Britain she was ‘mortified’ at the decision to give Hussain access.
Sammy Woodhouse told Good Morning Britain this morning of her mortification at the rapist being allowed access to her child
Sammy Woodhouse was raped as a teenager and gave birth to her son aged fifteen – but the baby’s father was only jailed in 2016
Arshid Hussain was jailed for 35 years after being convicted of raping Ms Woodhouse and assaulting young girls
Ms Woodhouse was horrified to find out that the council had said her rapist was entitled to access to his son
The Rotherham sex abuse survivor was ‘shocked and mortified’ to find out about the decision
The rape survivor told the show that she was shocked and mortified by the decision to approach her rapist and invite him to seek access
‘I was completely shocked and mortified,’ she said. ‘I thought when I testified in court and he was sentence to 35 years I thought that was it, I can move on.
‘Yet here I am within 12 months later knowing at any moment he could walk through that door.’
A ‘gobsmacked’ Miss Woodhouse, a mother-of-two, said she was campaigning for a change in the law to prevent convicted sex abusers gaining access to children fathered as a result of their crimes. She said: ‘This story is about myself, about my son and about the man that raped me… and the fact that Rotherham Council have offered him to apply for parental rights over my child.
Sammy Woodhouse was left ‘scared’ when she found out she could have to face her rapist in court after he was told he could have access to her son
Ms Woodhouse was a teenager when she was groomed by her rapist Arshid Hussain known as ‘Mad Ash’
Ms Woodhouse has gone on to campaign for the rights of women who have been raped
‘This is happening all over the country and it needs to stop. Children are being removed, being given to rapists, to murderers, for their families to have access – rape victims are having to go to support centres to share access.’
Hussain, who is of Pakistani origin, opted not to get involved with the boy.
But the South Yorkshire council’s decision to contact him was criticised as ‘perverse’ and ‘ridiculous’ by victims’ charities and campaigners. Nazir Afzal, former chief crown prosecutor for the North-West, said: ‘They (councils) think they are doing the right thing because they are told it is important the child has access to both parents, but it is wrong.
‘By following the letter of the law they are lacking judgment – they are applying a tick-box approach when it is plainly a ridiculous thing to do.
‘Rapists have no right to the child born of that rape.’
Ms Woodhouse who now campaigns on behalf of sex assault victims was plied with drugs, abused and threatened at gunpoint by Hussain and his gang.
In 2016, Hussain and his two brothers were jailed at Sheffield Crown Court for sexually assaulting, grooming and raping young girls. The brothers were also convicted of forcing a dozen girls into prostitution.
Louise Haigh, the shadow police and crime minister, who is backing Miss Woodhouse’s campaign to change the Children Act 1989, told The Times that the council’s decision was ‘appallingly insensitive’.
‘They handed him an invitation to re-traumatise his victim,’ she said. ‘No man who has fathered a child through abuse or rape should have the right to apply for custody or visitation rights.’
Baroness Newlove, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said the decision was ‘perverse’, adding: ‘This appears to be a case in which a victim of the worst sexual violence faced the prospect of continuing to be abused by her perpetrator, this time via the family courts.’
It is understood the Ministry of Justice is investigating whether the decision to involve the serial rapist was the result of a social worker’s error or systemic failings.
In a video on Facebook Ms Woodhouse told followers she was planning to fight for women who are told their rapist can have a say in their children’s lives
Baroness Newlove, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, has criticised the local authority
The Ministry of Justice is investigating whether or not this was a systematic failing – or an error by a social worker after the father was told he could see the child he conceived through rape
The decision was taken last year when the council applied, with the consent of Miss Woodhouse, to take her teenage son into care. She was struggling to cope with his complex needs. By law, councils are obliged to notify ‘all respondents’ of such proceedings.
Despite acknowledging in documentation that Hussain had no parental responsibility for the boy and that Miss Woodhouse had been emotionally, sexually and physically abused by him, the council named him as a ‘respondent’.
Officials informed him of his rights and promised to keep him informed of all court proceedings.
At first, Ms Woodhouse says her son was ‘seduced’ by the idea of meeting his father, who Rotherham Council agreed to keep informed over the court proceedings.
She said her son was ‘catapulted into a dreamworld’ by the thought of a relationship with his jailed father.
However, he later changed his mind.
The traumatised mother also told of how she once had to detail the rape to authorities when she applied for a passport for her son.
Authorities said her son’s father must sign the documentation before they would allow the passport to be created.
Louise Haigh MP for Sheffield Heeley and Shadow Policing Minister said there was potential for the man to ‘retraumatise his victim’
Rotherham Council was widely criticised and declared ‘not fit for purpose’ over its handling of child exploitation following a damning report in August 2014. The review estimated that 1,400 girls were abused by men of predominantly Pakistani heritage in the town during a 16-year period to 2013.
The council said it had a duty to comply with Family Court practice directions, which included a requirement to give notice of proceedings to ‘every person whom the applicant believes to be a parent without parental responsibility for the child’. But a Government spokesman said: ‘Existing court rules are very clear that applicants in care proceedings should only ever notify people who have parental responsibility for the child.’