An urgent investigation is needed into claims the authorities conspired to cover up child abuse in Rotherham for years, according to an influential committee.
Members of the Home Affairs select committee have said it is “beyond credibility” that files missing from the Rotherham child abuse investigation could simply have been lost.
The committee has published a damning report into how more than 1,400 girls were left to be abused by mostly Asian gangs for decades despite repeated chances for Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police to intervene.
The Home Office has said it is investigating what happened to files passed to its officials more than ten years ago, but one MP has warned there is little chance of the truth ever emerging.
Today’s report comes after MPs heard how in 2002 an abuse researcher at the council had her files stolen. Her critical review of child failings at the local authority sent to the Home Office was lost in Whitehall and her work stopped.
The researcher said she was harassed by council staff and threatened by the police.
Now the committee has published a final report warning that “this is not the first case in which it has been alleged that files of information relating to child sexual exploitation have disappeared.”
It adds that: “The proliferation of revelations about files which can no longer be located gives rise, whether fairly or not, to public suspicion of a deliberate cover-up.
“The only way to address these concerns is with a full, transparent and urgent investigation and the Home Office must do everything in its power to locate any missing files in its possession relating to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other places.”
Paul Flynn, who sits on the committee, told The Yorkshire Post he would be bringing Home Office-appointed abuse investigator Fiona Woolf before it in the coming weeks.
He added: “There is bound to be suspicion of a cover up here. People will rightly be alarmed by this because it is hard to avoid the suspicion there is a cover up.
“It is beyond credibility that this was coincidence. It is almost certainly a situation that needs looking into.
“The evidence we heard from the researcher in private left us all very angry.
“Without a doubt the Home Office has to answer the questions raised by this researcher and her missing evidence, it was the most significant submission we received.”
The committee also called for greater scrutiny of public officials and released proposed legislation to make it possible to fire a police commissioner.
The committee said the law should be changed to ensure commissioners can be removed if the local crime panel makes a no confidence motion or councils in the area make a similar move.
Last night Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the committee was right to call for transparency.
She added: “The missing files contain vital evidence given by victims and witnesses that can lead to prosecutions.
“It is essential that everything is done to find them, I simply do not believe they have vanished.”
A Home Office spokesman said: ““The Home Secretary is leading cross-government work to learn the lessons of Rotherham and has written to all chief constables stressing the highest standards must be met in tackling child sexual exploitation. She has also made it clear that there is a debate to be had on the issue of PCC recall.”