London (AFP) - An inquiry has revealed that some 1,400 minors were sexually abused in the British town of Rotherham over a 16-year period and blamed local authorities for failing to act.
Local council chief Roger Stone resigned immediately after the publication of the report, which detailed the gang rape, kidnapping and trafficking of girls as young as 11 in the town in north England.
"No-one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years," said Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the report which had been commissioned by the council.
"Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013," said Jay, an expert in social services.
"The authorities involved have a great deal to answer for," she said, pointing to "blatant" failures and the fact that some early reports about the abuses had been ignored.
It said the majority of the alleged abusers were described as "Asian" by victims but local officials had described "nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought of as racist".
No council officers will face disciplinary action over what happened.
Jay said some victims were "doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".
The inquiry followed the conviction of five men in 2010 for sexual offences in Rotherham at a trial in which they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
Similar cases of widespread sexual abuse of children -- sometimes by organised gangs -- have been revealed in recent years in the cities of Derby, Oxford and Rochdale.