Home Secretary accused of failing to prioritise Rotherham victims

Sarah Champion: MP for Rotherham fears nothing will be done before the general election.
Sarah Champion: MP for Rotherham fears nothing will be done before the general election.
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THE HOME Secretary has been accused of failing to prioritise Rotherham’s abuse victims as it emerges Theresa May still has not concluded a Whitehall search for missing evidence.

Last September Mrs May was forced to the House of Commons to set out the Government’s response to the horrific and widespread child sex abuse seen in Rotherham.

The Home Office said it would carry out its own internal review after it emerged evidence sent to it in 2002 had gone missing, including a draft report which could have exposed the abuse taking place in the Yorkshire town and saved hundreds of children.

It has now emerged the charity brought in to oversee that review has still not being asked to carry out its work.

Mrs May was made to act amid claims of a Rotherham conspiracy. Evidence produced during the Jay report and added to in a subsequent Commons inquiry revealed a researcher carrying out work for the Home Office into what was at first described as child prostitution had written sent a damning first draft to civil servants.

The researcher claimed she was forced out of Rotherham by police and council officials who were said to be furious at her for tipping off Whitehall.

When it emerged the vital report was lost, the Home Office promised a full investigation, announcing that NSPCC chief Peter Wanless would be asked to review its findings. The children’s charity has revealed to The Yorkshire Post it has been unable to do any work on the missing papers months after it was first asked.

A spokesman said: “We have not yet had the terms of reference set by the Home Office, so Mr Wanless has not carried out any work on this. This was an offer made to him, it is not yet clear he will even be the person to carry out the work.”

Home Office officials believe initial terms of reference were set, though admitted the report has not been sent nor have revised terms being discussed.

The concern among MPs now is that, with the General Election approaching, the wait for answers will only increase.

Rotherham’s campaigning MP Sarah Champion told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s unbelievable we have still not had an update on the missing Home Office files relating to Rotherham.

“I am becoming increasingly concerned that we won’t hear anything more before Parliament dissolves. The public, and in particular the people of Rotherham, deserve to know what happened to these files and I will push for urgent action to make sure they do.”

She was backed by the shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, who said Mrs May’s failures mirrored those of the national historic abuse panel.

Mrs Cooper added: “The crimes that were committed in Rotherham were appalling and of course we need to investigate all avenues to understand how so many children were able to be sexually exploited over so many years. That includes looking into whether information was passed to the Home Office and either lost or discarded. Theresa May promised this would be looked into, but, yet again, this seems to have been delayed and is mired in confusion.

“All of us want to get to the truth about why so many institutions failed to protect children and the Home Secretary needs to act immediately to get the review into the files on Rotherham underway and the national inquiry back on track.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Home Secretary has commissioned a thorough internal review to establish if any information was passed to the Home Office in 2002 regarding a research project on street prostitution in 11 areas, including Rotherham and, if so, what action was taken as a result. She has asked that Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC review this work.

“It is important that a comprehensive search is carried out to ascertain exactly what information the Home Office received and how any such information was handlcomment page 10