On Govanhill

Mhairi Hunter (Councillor, Southside Central ward, Glasgow) attempts to bring some balance and focus to the coverage of Govanhill.

Last week the Times published a story about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Govanhill which was picked up by many other media outlets.

The story contained serious and shocking allegations that Roma children are sold for sex and that the authorities turn a blind eye to this due to fear of being branded racist.

The allegations made in the article have not previously been reported to the police or to Social Work Services. Police Scotland is now conducting a full investigation into the claims and will interview every person named in the story.

Child Sexual Exploitation is undoubtedly a real problem in Glasgow and has been for some time. Social Workers work closely with Police Scotland and others to investigate, assess and intervene in CSE, with a strong and well-established multi-agency approach.

There are real challenges in identifying CSE, in working with young people to intervene and reduce risk and in disrupting the behaviour of perpetrators, particularly through prosecution.

In the past, young people and alleged perpetrators from Govanhill have been among those who have been the subject of major investigations. There are widespread rumours – reflected in the Times article – that CSE continues to take place.

Yet it is difficult to evidence this. I have myself been told by two taxi drivers on separate occasions that they could tell me the location of a child brothel. When I asked them to do so – and assured them that they could remain anonymous as I would pass the information on without identifying them – they backed off.

These kinds of encounters, where people suggest they have evidence of CSE in Govanhill but are unable to actually provide it, are not uncommon.

But the fact that many stories appear simply to be rumours does not mean Child Sexual Exploitation doesn’t happen. We know the abuse of children, including sexual abuse, is very likely to be under reported. I hope we can use this media coverage therefore as an opportunity to urge anyone who has information or even just concerns to report that either to Social Work Services or to Police Scotland.

Please be assured that Social Work staff and police will not downplay concerns or fail to act out of fear of being branded racist or culturally insensitive. Child safety is paramount. Anybody with concerns can report them with confidence that they will be investigated and appropriate action taken.

We are also considering how our community planning structures in Govanhill can be enhanced and I will be proposing a local multi-agency group in Govanhill focussed on tackling exploitation, enabling community members to be directly involved.

Child Sexual Exploitation can and does happen anywhere and everywhere. It’s not specific to any culture, class or location. But I suspect the word “Govanhill” helped make these allegations national news.

There are various reasons why Govanhill has become a magnet for sections of the media. It is Scotland’s most multi-ethnic area with pockets of very high poverty and deprivation. There have been serious problems with poor housing, overcrowding, rogue landlords and exploitation. And, of course, it is in Nicola Sturgeon’s constituency.

It is absolutely fair for local & national media to scrutinise the problems that exist in Govanhill, to highlight concerns and to say that public services have struggled at times to respond to pressures in the community.

But while criticism and scrutiny is fair, some media coverage of Govanhill has been sensational, unfair and deeply irresponsible.

On the basis of some reports last week a person could reasonably infer that Govanhill is a modern day ghetto, abandoned by the authorities, where children are routinely and openly prostituted on the streets while the police look the other way.

That is simply not true.

I appeal to people writing about Govanhill, therefore, to attempt to take a measured and balanced approach and to think about the impact of what you write on the people who live here. Don’t stigmatise an entire community simply because you can – the people of Govanhill will go on paying a price for that long after you have moved on.

Comments (23)

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  1. Dougie Blackwood says:

    A well written and measured response to a sensational story. Is there any truth among the rumours, probably, but no more than anywhere else. As Mhairi says it is down to all of us to inform the authorities, with any detail if we have it, anonymously is that makes it more comfortable.

    The only thing I would suggest is putting the Crimestoppers number (0800 555111) in the piece.

      1. Alan Thomson says:

        The Named Person will sort this out no doubt!

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    Glasgow already was the centre of deprivation in Scotland in the 1980s when the city council, in their infinite wisdom, decided to lead the way in providing housing for what were termed “asylum seekers”. In return, the UK govt paid dollops of cash to the council. No public protest….since few Scots wanted to risk being labelled “racist”. The result was a huge influx creating more strain on an already sub-standard education, health and housing situation. Anyone who wishes to assess the success of this policy or who doubts the deterioration of Govanhill should simply take a drive through the area.

    1. Dougie Blackwood says:

      There is clearly much work to be done in that area, and many others, to resolve the intractable problems that are endemic. Bad landlords are a symptom, the ghetto mentality of many that live there, gathering in ethnic communities does not help and in turn are easy prey to those that would exploit them.

      I am a landlord and, I like to think, a good one. I jump through all of the hoops that are in place, keep my property in good repair and charge a fair rent.

      It is clear that we need action to resolve the housing problem for all of our citizens; we do not have enough good quality houses available at an affordable rent. We also need to take action to encourage the ethnic minorities to integrate more fully into our society. Perhaps we need more boots on the ground inspecting and encouraging. None of these things are easy and are expensive, beyond our present Scottish region’s means.

      We do not need to wonder about why people are here or whether something can be done about THEM.

    2. raddledoldtart says:

      w. b. robertson, I feel the need to take issue with a couple of your points. Mate, I’m old enough to remember the 80’s – racist views were still openly expressed across all levels of society. Thankfully it’s clear that education *can* change opinions that were in no way accurate or useful, and many Scots have become much more clued up to the fact that those in charge of the waste, inefficiency and deliberate unfairness in our society would like those living in poverty to blame each other instead of those responsible. And if anyone is genuinely concerned about Govanhill – they shouldn’t “drive through”, they should get their backsides oot their car and take a walk. Help a mum trying to get her baby buggy up a kerb… give a hand to someone struggling to get aff a bus… if you see flytipping – report it… ?

    3. Annette Gardner says:

      I live in Govanhill, and have friends in the Roma community. I’ve lived here decades. While our population has gone up and more languages have appeared on our streets, there has always been a problem with slum landlords. Always. It used to be students living in shitty flats, but now there is so much student accommodation they prey on families. I’ve also lived in Romania and Hungary. Roma people here are living in enhanced conditions here, compared to the standards elsewhere in Europe. However many of the people who complain are of an older generation, families where women could be seen on the stoop scrubbing, while the men went to work. Others are racists of the far right who don’t live here. People RE frightened of what they don’t know and I was too. My new job introduced me to local Roma folks who I found welcoming, and quite the same as us. There are bad apples in Govanhill, of many races. And if men care about abuse of children, start questioning why men in the pub know where to buy a child and the police do not.

  3. Josef Ó Luain says:

    The poverty and related problems we see today in Govanhill and in many parts of Polokshields, didn’t happen overnight.

    Successive Governments and Labour administrations in Glasgow did nothing for years about, for example, exploitative Landlordism.

    These are the same Landlords who are responsible today for infestations of cockroaches, rats and other vermin in and around their run-down and often overcrowded properties in both areas; all of which constitute a massive public health disaster which hasn’t yet been admitted to by anyone, never mind addressed.

    1. I agree Josef – the issue about housing and unregulated gangster landlordism is at the heart of these problems

  4. Martin says:

    The same sensationalist stories were told about the Irish in Govanhill and the Gorbals 80 years ago,and again with Pakistanis in Govanhill 40 years ago. Any poor immigrants will gravitate to a initial place of survival,a place with relatives or friends who can help and accomodate. Any of us would be the same,and many of us have come from these beginnings. Newcomers are raw and rough and it takes time for a community to settle and find its feet. Let’s stop pulling the rug from under them.

    1. George says:

      Totally agree

    2. Charles Mcgarvey says:

      Try living here Martin, its no picnic

  5. Jamsie says:

    I really don’t get the point of this article.
    On the one hand she is saying that she is giving a balanced perspective and then she is saying child sex exploitation probably does exist in Govanhill but is no worse than elsewhere.
    Sorry but this sounds like an excuse to cover up what is obviously a fairly serious issue and defend the First Minister who stands accused of neglecting her constituency.
    Specialist Agencies, a charity, social workers, community representatives and residents is a fairly comprehensive range of people making allegations which need at the very least to be taken seriously and investigated.
    The police statement which was reported was absolute deflection telling all about the systems in place but not about any investigations ongoing or planned.
    If the Crosshill and Govanhill Community Council raised this matter with police what action was taken to investigate.
    Whether they had investigated before they had a duty to investigate again based on this concern.
    Sorry Mhairi but you are not bringing balance to the issue rather you could be part of the whitewash which seems to be happening.

    1. Mhairi Hunter says:

      None of the allegations made by individuals to the reporter were previously made to the police or to social work. We need to understand why they did not make their concerns known. That should emerge from the police investigation.

      I attended the Crosshill & Govanhill Community Council meeting referred to where people discussed their concerns about possible CSE. No evidence was provided. A number of people raised concerns that you see Roma children on the streets. This is true, you do. But being outdoors on the street does not mean children are involved in prostitution. These kids don’t have computers, smart phones etc. They play & socialise outside (the way people my age used to when we were kids).

      1. Jamsie says:

        Mhairi
        Who decided there was no evidence?
        The issues were raised with the Police by Joe Beaver on behalf of the community council and Jan McLeod of the Women’s Support Project also.
        The response from the Police she indicated was that the Police had investigated again and again but had not found any evidence.
        This seems to contradict your assertion that the individuals did not make their concerns known to the Police or social work dept.
        Did the Police response at the time to Jan Mcleod preclude further investigation based on the most recent concerns?
        If it did then clearly the Police have a case to answer.
        A senior social worker has also made comment that she was angered by the suggestion that it was being dismissed as an urban myth.
        And a well respected charity clearly have serious concerns.
        From the report it seems the Police did not investigate these concerns to establish whether the most recent events reported could be evidenced.
        That seems strange don’t you think?
        Is it possible the concerns of these people were ignored by the Police because of other influences who like yourself think that it is going on but is no worse than elsewhere and that the First Minister should not be criticised for failing her constituents.

      2. Jamsie says:

        In November 2017 it was suggested that there was no evidence of CSE in Govanhell and police had carried out various investigations which supported that.
        Ms Hunter was scathing about a report carried by the the Evening Times saying that people had not reported their concerns.
        It was an obvious attempt to suppress bad publicity for wee Nicola.
        I see Ms Siddique has made comment on the latest developments following a relatively short investigation which revealed that there was indeed a problem.
        Ms Hunter’s defence if u recall was that CSE in Govanhell was no worse than anywhere else.
        Where is she now?
        Any further comment?

    2. Derek says:

      I almost agree with I don’t get the point of the article until I read by the mp that it is only a news story because of the word govanhill …I’m truly sorry but that’s utter balderdash..true govanhill is the white elephant in the room for sturgeon and her fellow deniars of the blatatantly obvious problems there(spare me there’s no evidence guff..it would take an amateur private investigator a fortnight under surveillance in the pubs there to see the blindingly obvious)don’t tske the huff because you think the big bad right wing meeja are picking on govanhill solely because it’s On nicolas watch..I personally do t care whose running the show there if there’s problems on a mega scale they need addressed ..your bleating almost like the Jimmy Saville case and the bbc ..with people saying in hindsight o we had heard the rumours but there was no evidence well these rumours have been going on for over 10 years so unless you want this to be your Weinstein moment I suggest you act..decisively..as for the editor trying to deflect the blame on gangsta landlords…more tosh..yeah that’s y kids are being pimped out old folk robbed and locals having to choose a different route home..it’s those pesky Tory landlords..I do Taxi in that area and my immigrant family grew up their once upon a time …peacefully hardworking and law abiding..and I see and hear the stories in my job..most young scottish females tell me they chose a different route to walk home usually winding round a few streets to avoid hassle..this problem doesn’t exist in govan etc..were you will get youths(though not in the numbers of Allison Street)hanging around but generally just bothering with each other..again these 2 taxi drivers told me but wouldn’t show me..if I’d been in ten Taxis and2 of them told me this story I’d be very concerned.,especially if I was representing that area ..i wouldn’t dismiss it as hogwash without evidence…I suggest you do a test ..send an undercover female with cam to walk down the length of Allison Street late at night and watch the results…it certainly won’t be politically correct..you wouldn’t let your dog make that journey now..and my Irish immigrant granny made that journey safely all her days..and the funny thing or rather strange thing is most of the racial tensions in that are does not involve Scots…it’s between Asians and Eastern Europeans..and most Scots tend to side with the Asians.,,it’s a problem down their perhaps not a ghetto ..but with more problematic isuues than most other working class areas in Glasgow…and blaming the times for not being balance won’t address the issue one iota…on the plus side you can get cheap booze in govanhill ..we will all be heading their in the 1st of may cheers..,

  6. Isabel says:

    Hopefully the police investigation will be a successful initiative. And the problems frequently written about Govanhill will be tackled in a positive way. It won’t be easy or cheap but firm action must be taken to eventually resolve the situation in that area.

    1. Jamsie says:

      Isabel
      I fear having looked at some of the issues that there is actually a complete disconnect between SNP politicians and cooncillors and the residents of the area.
      Only a few months ago Mhairi laughed in the face of evidence of sustained ongoing fly tipping – evidence provided in photographs by residents.
      Rather than bring balance to the reporting of the issue of CSE it is clear that she is simply plying the party line – and that is total and absolute denial of any responsibility or culpability in the state of Govanhill.
      Govanhill has become a third world entity in the heart of Glasgow and the SNP should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

    2. Derek says:

      Isabel..the police have been fully aware of the situation for years…I picked up a homeless worker tonight and she was informed donkeys ago to carry panic alarms.. by the Police .and warned they were more likely to be attacked during the day…when she made a jest that she never required it as she was a black belt in karate(which she is)she was Firmly telt she would be charged if she done anything..this is all fact ..she then proceeded to tell me about horrific stories albeit the home office/immigration intervened in eventually.,and people were deported/charged…again for anyone to suggest it’s just Chinese whispers are delusional…I mentioned the taxi driver account of events by the msp and how there was no proof and she fell about laughing..,wake up and smell the coffee folks..if it was a Tory constituent you’d be all over it like a rash..

  7. John breslin says:

    For raddledolldart what a lot of noncense you talk govan hill is a lost cause the only people to blame for the state of govanhill is the Romanians they are the cause of 990/0 of everything bad about govanhill no one else get out your car and help someone are you off your head the people that stay in govanhill won’t go out in day time unless they need to I feel sorry for the folk who stay in govanhill because it was a nice place to live once the Romanians have ruined it they are work shy thieving b——– they are a blight and how Nicola sturgeon is getting away with not getting took to task for criminal neglect of govanhill is not right govanhill was a decent place to stay once by letting in Romanians to rape ,assault people, burgle, steal out of charity shops , commit fraud , pimp their children out ,and all sorts of other crimes is a disgrace . When the Irish and pakistani’s came here they worked there fingers to the bone so they could better themselves so they could move on and get on the housing ladder and provide for their families , they didn’t throw shit out their windows or bags of rubbish , the Roma are not here to work or assimilate into the community they are her to rob, beg , and put there hand out to take out the public purse these people who say aah don’t criticise them , give them this give them that are probably middle class who would have a nervous breakdown if they thought the Roma were getting a house next to them it is a disgrace what the mp’s and councillors are allowing to happen to govanhill they deserve to get not elected at the next election I voted for Nicola sturgeon she was round chap ping doors looking for votes I haven’t seen her since and if anyone believes these so called politicians the Roma aren’t so bad want their heads examined open your eyes why should we welcome people into the country and then watch them ruining the area they live in and turn the place into a ghetto because that is what it has become !!! We want mp’s and councillors who will do something about the problem that is govanhill

  8. Derek says:

    Why do replies never get posted on this site?!

  9. w.b.robertson says:

    For those who were sceptical of the situation, I suggested that it might be useful for them to drive through the ghetto to see for themselves. I certainly would not walk, I`m old. but still mentally aware and streetwise.

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