South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is facing increasing pressure to resign after a shocking report found 1,400 youngsters in a town suffered sexual exploitation in a 16-year period.
Shaun Wright was the cabinet member responsible for children’s services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010, in the middle of a period when, according to a report released yesterday, gang rapes, grooming, trafficking and other sexual exploitation on a wide scale was taking place.
Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone resigned yesterday following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay’s report, and there were calls for Mr Wright, a former Labour councillor who was elected as PCC in 2012, to follow suit.
The leader of the Lib Dem group on Sheffield City Council, Colin Ross, said: “Shaun Wright was the councillor in charge of children’s services at Rotherham Council and also sat on the Authority of South Yorkshire Police when both organisations knew about the level of child sexual exploitation, but chose not to do anything about it. It’s difficult to see how local people can have confidence in him to continue as our Police and Crime Commissioner.”
Ukip Yorkshire and Humber MEP Jane Collins added: “I categorically call for the resignation of everyone directly and indirectly involved in this case. The Labour Council stand accused of deliberately ignoring child sex abuse victims for 16 years. The apologies we have heard are totally insincere and go nowhere near repairing the damage done.
“These resignations should include South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright who until his election into the PPC post, held responsible positions with Rotherham Council. I also call for a criminal investigation by a force not directly linked with this scandal in to all those implicated in this scandal. There is no place for these people in public life.”
Prof Jay’s report, which looked at a period between 1997 and 2013, detailed “utterly appalling” examples of “children who had been 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”.
She said: “They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated.”
She said she found that girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men.
The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
Umar Razaq, 24, Razwan Razaq, 30, Zafran Ramzan, 21, Adil Hussain 20, and Mohsin Khan, 21, were found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of a string of sexually related offences against girls aged between 12 and 16, including rape. Their sentences totalled more than 32 years.
The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last four years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Following the 2010 case, The Times claimed that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the town had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted.
The allegations led to a range of official investigations, including one by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The report – commissioned by the council – said failures of the political and officer leadership of Rotherham Council between 1997 and 2009 were “blatant” as the seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers and was not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire Police.
It emerged yesterday that no council employees will face disciplinary action.
The local authority’s chief executive Martin Kimber said he did not have the evidence to discipline any individuals still working for the council despite the report saying there had been “blatant” collective failures by its leadership at the time.
A spokesman for Mr Wright said yesterday: “The Commissioner is pleased that the inquiry conducted by Alexis Jay finally shines a light on the errors made in relation to safeguarding children in Rotherham and that constructive action can be taken to protect young people as a result of the report and recommendations.
“The Commissioner has previously apologised for the failure of Rotherham Council while he was in its cabinet from 2005 to 2010. He repeats that apology today and he fully accepts that there was more that everyone at Rotherham Council should have done to tackle this terrible crime.”