Time for law of accountability

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IF DOWNING Street does not deem the Rotherham child abuse scandal worthy of a Ministerial statement on Monday when MPs return to Westminster after the summer recess – and there was still no clarity last night – then David Cameron must think again.

IF DOWNING Street does not deem the Rotherham child abuse scandal worthy of a Ministerial statement on Monday when MPs return to Westminster after the summer recess – and there was still no clarity last night – then David Cameron must think again.

Ninety-six hours have passed since Professor Alexis Jay’s bombshell report into the systematic sexual grooming of 1,400 young girls in Rotherham over 16 years, and the only person directly involved to have resigned is the borough’s long-standing council leader Roger Stone.

It has also taken this long for a dithering Ed Miliband to call for his former colleague Shaun Wright, now public enemy number one, to resign as South Yorkshire’s crime commissioner.

Presumably the Labour leader and Doncaster MP is deeply embarrassed by a photograph of him personally endorsing 
the candidature of the former councillor, who overlooked umpteen warnings about the abuse when he was in charge of children’s services in Labour-run Rotherham.

At least Beverley MP Graham Stuart has gone on the record to challenge East Riding Council to investigate its head of children and young people Pam Allen who was Rotherham’s director of safeguarding from 2004 to 2009. He said it was “highly doubtful” that Ms Allen could continue to be “entrusted” with her current role “if she bears a serious level of responsibility” for the abuse in Rotherham.

It is further reason why the Government’s response on Monday must reflect the shameful scale of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police’s shortcomings. There is surely a case, at the end of an extraordinary week, for legislation being introduced which would compel public servants to be disciplined if their actions betrayed the public interest.

In terms of domestic politics, it is hard to think of a more pressing policy priority than the passing of a law of accountability so Rotherham’s victims can, at the very least, receive some semblance of belated justice.

A hidden scandal

The human misery of slavery

YORKSHIRE’S VERY own William Wilberforce was the leading voice of the abolition movement, his campaign heaping pressure on Parliament to the point where it finally moved to outlaw slavery in 1833. Or so the history books tell us.

In fact, the grim reality is that even now, nearly two centuries on, slavery still exists. Yorkshire is “home” to hundreds of men, women and children who, having fallen into the hands of traffickers, have been coerced under the threat of violence into lives of unspeakable exploitation.

Yet these poor individuals remain trapped in a world of misery that is invisible to both the authorities and members of the public – for the simple reason that they do not know what they are looking for.

Latest figures show West Yorkshire Police responded to more human trafficking cases than anywhere else outside London in the first three months of 2014.

Last November, a major investigation led to 17 people being rescued from suspected exploitation at addresses across Leeds. And this is merely the tip of a very large iceberg.

It is why a strategy to end human trafficking is being launched in the city. However, if that is to happen, then agencies such as the police and local councils must provide better training so that front line staff can recognise, and respond to, this practice when they see it. The public also need to be far better informed than at present. A new Slavery Bill may make the reporting of human trafficking a legal duty, but it will lack conviction without much greater awareness about how to detect these abuses.

The winning team

Sir Alex is united with racing

LIKE THE Queen whose lifelong affinity with the sport of kings is so well-documented, Sir Alex Ferguson is another famous individual who is reinvigorated by a refreshing morning on the gallops – or a relaxing afternoon at the races.

He says the enjoyment that he derived from horse racing helped to extend his career at Manchester United. He names York as his favourite track, he has several horses in training in North Yorkshire and says one of his “inspirations” is the much-admired Leeds-born trainer Jack Berry who instigated the Injured Jockeys Fund 50 years ago.

What is less well known is Sir Alex’s support for the tireless and ageless Mr Berry, whether it be paying for races to be staged in aid of the IJF or attending next month’s Leger Legends raceday at Doncaster that will raise funds for a new centre for injured riders, and which is currently being built in Malton. Sir Alex suggests that he will always be in racing’s debt, but the reverse is equally true.