Rotherham Council Criticised for “Racism” After Rejecting Late Night Tea License Over CSE Fears27 Jul 2020
Rotherham Council has been criticised for “racism” after news emerged that it rejected a late-night food licence application of a Pakistani-owned mobile tea café based on fears that it would contribute to child sexual exploitation in the area, despite there being no evidence linking the business or the owner to any such activity.
Council officials fear a late license ‘could lead to child sexual exploitation’ in the area
The Council’s groundless fears came after a local business, Matki Chai, applied for a late-night licence to remain open until 2am on weekends and select days of the year, such as Eid. However, in a licensing hearing last week, Jo McCartan, Service Manager for Safeguarding at Rotherham Council’s Children’s Services said that the extension of the license would cause “significant concerns in terms of child sexual exploitation”.
McCartan went on to say that the area has numerous families vulnerable to child sexual exploitation and that opening of a venue until late at night could put them at risk. Similarly, Police Inspector, Alex Gibbons, said that the late-night opening of a food venue might attract members of the public who have been consuming alcohol and may encourage them to continue.
Notably, the owner of Matki Chai, Mr Khurrum Bhatti, said that no alcohol would be served, glasses would not be available on site and no music would be played, rejecting any concerns that the venue would lead to a deterioration of living standards in the area.
South Yorkshire Police told the Matki Chai owner that they would they would only agree to the late opening of the business if three conditions were satisfied.
The first condition was that under-18s would not be able to buy tea unless they were accompanied by an adult after 6pm, and would not be able to buy tea at all after 11pm. This would make Matki Chai probably the only venue in the world to have to enforce such a requirement.
The second requirement was that the venue would need to be fitted with CCTV to South Yorkshire Police’s specification.
Lastly, that all staff and management would have to undertake appropriate safeguarding training.
Despite these incredible conditions, Mr Bhatti agreed, only for Council officials to reject the license anyway.
“This is what happens when you become a suspect community”
South Yorkshire Police acknowledged that these concerns are based on “fears and speculation”. However, the business is not linked to any crimes, or any historic cases of child sexual exploitation or grooming. Local community activists are concerned that the Council’s outrageous conditions and subsequent rejection appear to be purely based on the fact that the business owner is Pakistani.
Commenting on the matter, Rotherham-born Founder of British Muslim Youth, Muhbeen Hussain said, “I have no words at how Rotherham Council is treating the local Pakistani Muslim community. For too long, the crimes of few that we all stand against, have been levelled at the whole community.”
Muhbeen criticised the unreasonably imposed legal obstacles on a business based on unconvincing grounds, warning that it has set a dangerous precedent and will penalise a whole community for the actions of a few over a decade ago.
“I have never heard of people being ID’d for buying a cup of tea. The conditions that were placed on this business are so absurd, and yet everyone on this Licensing Committee including the representatives from the Council and the police saw this as perfectly normal. This is why it is so dangerous. This is what happens when you become a suspect community. This entire committee needs to be reviewed and action taken against individuals who clearly have such incendiary views,” said Muhbeen.