A Home Affairs Committee report published today says there is “compelling evidence” that Rotherham officials “ignored numerous, credible warnings” about child abuse.
The Committee found in June 2013 that Rotherham council had been “inexcusably slow” to recognise the scale of the abuse. This is blamed on a “woeful lack of professional curiosity, or even indifference, from the council Chief Executive…to the Director of Children’s Services…through the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board.”
The report also criticised individual practitioners who “dismissed the victims – children as young as 12 – as ‘prostitutes’.”
Today’s report says that improvements were made since that time but states that “although the local authority now recognises the nature and extent of localised grooming in South Yorkshire…it is clear that senior leadership in rotherham council failed in their duty of care towards these girls.”
The Home Affairs Committee report reveals that between the publication of the report in August 2014 and 1 October 2014, 29 new cases of child sexual exploitation were reported to Rotherham’s Public Protection Unit.
MPs have scrutinised the response of officials in Rotherham to concerns raised during the 16-year period covered in the Jay report. These centre on issues raised by a Home Office investigator in 2002 and the work of Risky Business – a specialist project set up to tackle exploitation in the area.
Professor Jay’s report raised concerns about the work of a researcher in Rotherham between 2000-2002 who claimed data related to her investigation into child abuse in the area had been “removed” from her office.
The researcher’s draft report “contained severe criticisms of the agencies in Rotherham involved with CSE. The most serious concerned alleged indifference towards, and ignorance of, child sexual exploitation on the part of senior managers. The report also stated that responsibility was continuously placed on young people’s shoulders rather than with the suspected abusers.”
The Committee report states:
It says the only way to tackle such suspicions is to have a “full, transparent and urgent investigation” and urges the Home Office to do everything in its power to locate any missing files.
The report found the Risky Business project passed information to South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council from 2003 which included details of how many cases they dealt with and details of those cases. In addition, another researcher, Dr Angie Heal, met with South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton, to discuss her evidence of “on-street grooming”.
The Home Affairs Committee concludes:
The role of Police and Crime Commissioners has been called into question by the Committee after South Yorkshire’s PCC Shaun Wright refused to resign in the wake of the scandal.
Wright eventually resigned on 16 September, but his initial refusal brought to light the fact that PCCs cannot be removed from post except in the case of criminal prosecution.
Sheffield City Council unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in Shaun Wright and the county’s Police and Crime Panel indicated it would support emergency legislation to enable the urgent removal of PCCs.
The Home Affairs Committee has now published a draft bill proposing two methods by which PCCs could be removed.
The Committee says: “We are concerned that at present there is no mechanism at all to suspend or remove a Police and Crime Commissioner for behaviour which falls short of criminal. We recommend that new legislation be brought in to provide for a Police and Crime Commissioner to be subject to recall.”
One of the suggestions is that a PCC could be removed if a Police and Crime Panel passed a motion of no confidence and if one or more local authorities representing at least half the population of the police area have passed a motion of no confidence in the Commissioner.
The Home Affairs Committee is made up of ministers from all the main parties:
- Rt Hon Keith Vaz (Chair) (Lab) (Leicester East)
- Ian Austin (Lab) (Dudley North)
- Nicola Blackwood (Con) (Oxford West and Abingdon)
- James Clappison (Con) (Hertsmere)
- Michael Ellis (Con) (Northampton North)
- Paul Flynn (Lab) (Newport West)
- Lorraine Fullbrook (Con) (South Ribble)
- Dr Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) (Cambridge)
- Yasmin Qureshi (Lab) (Bolton South East)
- David Winnick (Lab) (Walsall North)