A woman who was sexually abused while being looked after at a Blackburn children’s home claims she “never received an apology” from the local authority and “believes the council failed her”.

Josie Clark, who has waived her right to anonymity automatically given to victims of sexual abuse, was recently awarded an undisclosed sum after her legal team at Irwin Mitchell, and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, agreed on an out-of-court settlement.

Blackburn with Darwen Council did not admit liability in relation to Josie’s ordeal, which took place while she was being cared for at Whalley New Road Children’s Home as a young girl some two decades ago.

The authority has been contacted for further comment.

Josie, now 32, was placed into the care of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council as a young girl and spent time at a number of different establishments.

Josie was a known vulnerable child and had already suffered sexual abuse but was sadly not believed.

From the age of 10, Josie then spent nearly five years at Whalley New Road Children’s Home, on and off and in that period, she and other girls suffered abuse from paedophiles.

Josie was driven around by groups of men and forced to have sexual encounters with them on any given night.

She was also drugged and plied with alcohol on a regular basis, often therefore not being able to recall her experiences afterwards.

As time passed and the abuse she was suffering from became more violent, Josie found the courage to speak out and discussed her experiences with staff at the care home.

A police investigation was launched, leading to convictions being secured years later.

Lancashire Telegraph: Zulfar HussainZulfar Hussain (Image: Lancs Police)

In August 2007, when Josie was 15, two of the abusers were jailed for five years and eight months for their abhorrent crimes with a judge condemning Zulfar Hussain, 46, and Qaiser Naveed, 32, for "exploiting" the vulnerable under 16s who were in social services care.

Hussain, of Cowell Way, Blackburn, admitted abducting a child, sexual activity with the same child and supplying the youngster with ecstasy.

Naveed, of Colne Road, Burnley, pleaded guilty to the same set of offences.

The court had heard that the girls had become involved in sexual relationships with Hussain and Naveed in around October 2005, and would often spend the night together at a home in Walter Street, Blackburn.

In 2010, when Pakistani citizen Hussain was due for release from Wymott prison, he was due to be deported back to Pakistan.

However, he launched an appeal which proved successful and was told he would be allowed to return to East Lancashire, placing Josie in fear.

He argued his right to a family life in the country based on his British citizen wife of 21 years and children living in Blackburn for 10 years.

The Home Office, backed by Justice Minister and Blackburn MP at the time, Jack Straw, appealed the decision and won, and in May 2011, the UK Borders Agency fast-tracked his deportation and emergency travel documents were obtained, with Hussain sent back to Islamabad.

Naveed did not contest his deportation order when released partway through his sentence.

Following her lawyers securing a settlement, Josie has revealed that she is determined to “finally move on” with her life.

Speaking for the first time about the impact the abuse had on her life, Josie said: “As a child in care, I was already vulnerable. The local authority had a duty to protect me, and I believe it failed. 

“I felt like nobody cared about me. I could come and go from the home as I wanted, and nobody bothered to try and stop me. I would be beaten and abused, and afterwards I would be punished by being locked out of my room.

“It’s taken a long time and a lot of courage to be able to speak out on what I went through.

“I’ve always struggled with my mental health, but I didn’t feel like there were any efforts to support me when I was in care. It’s only now that people are listening to me.

“I’ve never received an apology from the council, which upsets me.

“I’ll always live with the impact of the abuse, but I feel that I can finally move on. I just hope that by speaking out I can encourage others to do the same.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Josie ClarkJosie Clark (Image: Irwin Mitchell)

Jemma Small, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell who supports survivors of abuse, said: “This is sadly yet another devastating case where a vulnerable child has suffered unimaginable abuse.

“While it’s many years since the abuse, it still affects Josie to this day. 

“No amount of money will ever make up for the trauma she’s been through, but we’re pleased to have been able to secure her this settlement which will allow her to access the specialist support she requires as she attempts to move forward with her life.

“We also applaud Josie’s bravery in sharing her experiences in an aim of helping others.

“Survivors of abuse need not suffer in silence as help and support is available.”

Councillor Julie Gunn, executive member for children, young people and education at Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “It’s always brave to speak out about abuse.

“This is a historical case and it’s important to acknowledge the long-term impact of abuse. There are strict legal rules around sharing information about individual cases however we can speak direct to people involved and this will happen.

“Safeguarding is taken very seriously, and we have prioritised tackling child sexual exploitation to protect young people at risk of harm. Tough action is taken to deal with offenders and lots of support is available for those who are vulnerable or have been affected.”

Anybody who wants to access confidential support or who is worried about a child should speak to Children’s Social Care at BwD Council, the police or Childline.

Following concerns of child sexual exploitation, Blackburn with Darwen’s response in Josie's case was a joint police and children's services operation called Operation Engage that went on to become the council's multi-agency Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Team.

The Engage team was established in 2008 under the direction of the Blackburn with Darwen Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).

Engage was initially a multi-agency, co-located specialist Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Team.

The agreed safeguarding model is rooted within early identification of risk, focussing on the protection of children.

Invariably this is achieved through support to children and carers and the prosecution of offenders when appropriate.