SOUTH Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright has faced angry calls from members of the public for him to resign, including the grandfather of one alleged victim of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham who said to him: “If I had a gun I would shoot you.”
Mr Wright was confronted by the man as he appeared to answer public questions at South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel today.
Speaking from the public gallery, the man said his 12-year-old granddaughter was arrested for being drunk and disorderly by police officers who let her four adult abusers go free.
The man said: “You were a disgrace, mate. If I had a gun I would shoot you.”
Mr Wright responded, saying: “Clearly, if that took place, it’s an absolute disgrace.”
The PCC faced angry scenes at the meeting in Rotherham Town Hall as members of the public asked why he was still in his job.
The meeting degenerated as chairman Harry Harpham tried to eject an EDL member who was shouting as two victims of child sexual abuse tried to ask questions.
A number of EDL supporters decided to leave, screaming at Mr Wright from the public gallery as they made their way out of the chamber.
Mr Harpham apologised to the two young women, one of whom also began to harangue the commissioner.
In response to another question, Mr Harpham said he had referred two complaints about Mr Wright to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Mr Wright said child sexual exploitation levels are just as high now as they were in the periods covered by the Jay Report.
The commissioner agreed this was on an “industrial scale”.
He told the panel: “It’s a very difficult and complex issue to prevent. That shouldn’t be any excuse for not trying to prevent it. But I’m afraid it is stilling going on today, it’s just as prevalent today as it was in 2010 or 2005 or indeed any period before that.
“All I can say is that you’ve got my absolute commitment to continue the work that’s already been put in place and to try and continue the progress that has been made since I’ve been police and crime commissioner.”
Mr Harpham said: “I think it was you who initially talked about the levels of child sexual exploitation on an industrial scale.
“Are you saying in your response that that level of child sexual exploitation is still taking place today?”
The commissioner said: “I have referred to the numbers, the 1,400 evidenced by Professor Jay, clearly that’s exploitation on an industrial scale in my view.
“But if you look at the referrals and the investigations that have taken place then, yes, it does appear that it is still at that level across Rotherham and indeed across South Yorkshire.
“Now whether that is as a result of more awareness and more people having the confidence to come forward or whether that it is a result of actual crimes taking place, the jury’s still out.”
The panel passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Wright but the commissioner did not wait to hear what they had concluded.
He left the building escorted by police officers as the councillors deliberated and got into a waiting car to shouts of “Shaun Wright out” from a small group of protesters.
The car, which appeared to be driven by a police officer, left at speed, its tyres screeching as it took the first bend behind the town hall.
Mr Harpham said he was writing to the Home Secretary to endorse the Home Affairs Committee’s call for legislation to change the law on PCCs so they can be sacked in “exceptional circumstances”.
One panel member, Ukip’s Caven Vines, said he was resigning from the committee.
Mr Wright has resisted widespread and repeated top-level calls for him to resign since the publication of the Jay Report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which detailed how at least 1,400 children were subjected to horrors including rape, violence and trafficking for sex between 1997 and 2013.
Before his election in 2012, he was a councillor in Rotherham for more than a decade and was the member of the council with responsibility for children’s services from 2005 to 2010.
Calls for him to step down have been led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, and Labour leader Ed Miliband.
But he has resisted every challenge and when Labour threatened to throw him out of the party, he resigned his membership.
Today, he said the author of the damning report, Professor Jay, told him she was “staggered” by how little information was given to him when he was the councillor with responsibility for children in the town.
Mr Wright said Professor Jay interviewed him as she compiled her report
He said she listed all the reports and other documents prepared about the issue in the town and told him: “I was staggered at how little information was provided to you.”
Earlier this week, South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton was asked by MPs about the case of a 12-year-old sexual abuse victim who was arrested for being drunk when she was found in a derelict house with a group of men.
Mr Crompton said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) would look into the incident.
“We do know who the officers were who were in the case. Certainly the main officer has retired in that case some years ago,” he told the Commons Home Affairs committee.
Professor Jay’s report said the girl - named only as Child H - was 11-years old when she first came to the attention of the police - reporting to them that she and another child had been sexually assaulted.
At the age of 12 she was found drunk in the back of a car with a suspected child abuser, who had indecent images of her on his phone, but she was eventually assessed as being at no risk and her case closed, the report said.
Within weeks of that decision she was discovered in the derelict house with another child and a number of men.
But while no action was taken against the men, she was arrested for being drink and disorderly - though her conviction was later set aside.
Mr Wright also appeared before the Home Affairs Committee and was again told he should resign immediately.
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he would ask Home Secretary Theresa May to bring in emergency laws to allow PCCs to be ousted as the MPs accused Mr Wright of clinging on to his job for a “love of the salary”.
Rotherham Council has followed neighbouring Sheffield in passing a vote of no confidence in the PCC.
Last night it emerged that Rotherham Council could be run from Whitehall after Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles ordered a wide-ranging inquiry into its failings.
Louise Casey, who heads the Government’s Troubled Families programme, will lead the inspection and Mr Pickles made clear that if necessary he is prepared to intervene directly.
Mr Pickles, a former Bradford Council leader, said the council “utterly failed its children”.
“We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered. But we can and should take steps to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children,” he said.
Ms Casey has been asked to report by the end of November on whether the council is functioning properly in the areas of governance, children’s services and taxi licensing.
She will also look into whether the authority is suffering from “institutionalised political correctness”, covers up information or silences whistle-blowers, Mr Pickles said.
Mr Pickles has shown a willingness to order direct intervention before. Four years ago he ordered Government-appointed commissioners to oversee Doncaster Council after it was described as “dysfunctional” by the Audit Commission.
The inquiry was announced just hours after council leader Paul Lakin had unveiled a package of measures to restore the authority’s shattered reputation.
A new cabinet will be appointed and a £120,000 fund established to pay for counselling for child sex victims, paid for by axing two of its cabinet posts and banning foreign travel for councillors.
During a second day of grilling by MPs yesterday, the council’s director of children’s services said she felt embattled South Yorkshire police commissioner Shaun Wright had “let us down” when he was the councillor responsible for overseeing her department.
Joyce Thacker saidthat a 2008 report on child abuse in Rotherham was given to Mr Wright when he was the cabinet member responsible for children’s services.
But she said he did not pass it on to the rest of the council’s ruling cabinet.
Asked if she felt “let down” by Mr Wright, Mrs Thacker said: “I think, with hindsight, yes I am.
“If the report had been given to cabinet it still would not have stopped child sexual exploitation. But the ownership may have been there for the issue much better across the council than it was.”
It also emerged yesterday that Mr Wright is the Association of Police Commissioners’representative on a Home Office panel on child sexual abuse.