Shaun Wright was subjected to a torrent of derision yesterday as he faced public questions for the first time since Alexis Jay’s independent report revealed the full scale of the abuse over 16 years.
The former lead councillor for children’s services at Rotherham council between 2005 and 2010 has defied calls to resign as South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and insists he has invested millions in recent months to protect children.
But he told members of the county’s Police and Crime Panel that child sex abuse levels were just as high now as in the 1997 to 2013 period covered by the report, when 1,400 girls and boys fell victim to grooming gangs.
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 still 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.”
He added that it was unclear whether the current levels are “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 Independent Police Complaints Commission says it is considering whether to investigate Mr Wright over his role at Rotherham council and his alleged “knowledge of child sexual exploitation allegations”.
It received a referral from the police and crime panel and said it could investigate PCCs “if there is evidence that they may have committed a criminal offence, either while in office or prior to them becoming Police and Crime Commissioners”.