South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) rejected calls for his resignation Wednesday following a shocking report into the abuse of hundreds of young people in Rotherham.
The report, commissioned by Rotherham Council and published Tuesday, revealed that some 1,400 minors were sexually abused in the Yorkshire town over a 16-year period.
It detailed “utterly appalling” incidents of gang rape, kidnapping and trafficking of girls as young as 11, and blamed local authorities for a “blatant” failure to act over child exploitation, the full scale of which is still not known.
Rotherham Borough Council leader Roger Stone resigned immediately after the report’s publication and PCC Shaun Wright, who was head of children’s services at the council from 2005 to 2010, faced mounting calls Wednesday to follow his lead.
The leader of the Liberal Democrat 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.”
But Wright said he believed he was the “most appropriate person to hold this office at this current time”.
“Had I known then what I know now I could have done more,” he told the BBC.
“As an elected member I came into this role to make a difference. At every stage I’ve done my utmost to protect those people.”
The council said no council officers would face disciplinary action following the inquiry, which covered the period from 1997 to 2013.
Professor Alexis Jay, the report’s author, said children were “raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities… abducted, beaten and intimidated.”
Some were “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”, Jay added.
She said the majority of the alleged abusers were described as “Asian” by victims but local officials had described “nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought of as racist”.
South Yorkshire Police said Wednesday that it “fully intends to implement the recommendations” made in the report.
“Where there is evidence that officers failed to properly investigate, or have covered up evidence, then this will be referred to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission).”
The inquiry followed the conviction of five men in 2010 for sexual offences in Rotherham at a trial in which they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
Similar cases of widespread sexual abuse of children — sometimes by organised gangs — have been revealed in recent years in the cities of Derby, Oxford and Rochdale.