Investigators examining complaints against Rotherham abuse whistleblower Jayne Senior by now-adult survivors of child sexual exploitation said they were given a recording which provided “compelling evidence of her acting beyond the professional boundaries of her official capacity” in her role at a local charity.
A three-year investigation examining Mrs Senior’s conduct in her role as chief executive at Swinton Lock Activity Centre after allegations were made by 12 complainants, six of whom had been service users at the charity, upheld three complaints, partially upheld a further four and did not uphold a further two.
Among those complaints it upheld on the basis of a ‘balance of probability’ test was one that Mrs Senior had “actively pursued victims, on occasion, in an unprofessional manner, to try and direct them to SLAC for support or to encourage them to access legal representation”.
The report said: “A recorded interview of one such encounter provides compelling evidence of Mrs Senior acting beyond the professional boundaries of her official capacity.”
Another upheld complaint was Mrs Senior directing victims/survivors to the legal firm Switalskis Solicitors, which has been involved in compensation claims. The report said there was no evidence Switalskis had asked for such recommendations or of the firm behaving inappropriately. It added there was no evidence of any financial relationship between Mrs Senior and Switalskis, that complainants reported receiving a “good service” from the firm and that Mrs Senior had provided evidence reflecting enquiries to other firms.
It said: “It could be argued that Mrs Senior was directing victims to a firm that she believed had the specialist knowledge and experience to support them. Nevertheless, we note that it is good practice for practitioners working with the public to offer a list of organisations who can offer legal services rather than recommending a specific firm.”
The third upheld complaint related to the impact of what had happened on the wellbeing of complainants. The report said: “The strength of feeling from the victims and survivors was substantial. It was evident their experience of Mrs Senior’s reportedly poor conduct had a profound impact on them. Many complainants who had previously perceived that they initially received support from Mrs Senior, described feeling betrayed when they felt she had exploited them.”
But it added investigators had also heard from backers of Mrs Senior who detailed the support she had provided and “were critical of the conduct of some of the complainants”.
Among the partially-upheld complaints was one relating to the “misrepresentation of personal information about survivors” in her autobiography.
The report said: “It is our view that Mrs Senior has misrepresented and potentially misused, some of the information she gained during her professional practice. We acknowledge Mrs Senior’s assertion that she amalgamated the abusive experiences of survivors to protect their anonymity. However, an unintended consequence was for some to recognise what they viewed as distorted representations of their abuse.”
Ten complainants – four of whom had not attended SLAC – were interviewed, with two other complainants who had not used the service giving written evidence.
Three witnesses in support of Mrs Senior were interviewed, with a fourth supplying a letter.
In April 2018, Rotherham Council apologised to Mrs Senior for delays in informing her and the charity about the allegations made.
Charity unhappy with investigation
Jayne Senior has said she cannot fully comment on the report - while Swinton Lock’s trustees say they “disagree with many of the report’s findings”.
In an emailed statement, Mrs Senior said: “This is a very disappointing matter and is currently subject to legal actions to which I cannot comment.”
A statement on behalf of the Swinton Lock Activity Centre said: “Rotherham Council carried out an extensive nearly three-year long investigation into Swinton Lock Activity Centre. Swinton Lock Activity Centre robustly defended itself against allegations made against us and our employees.”
“The trustees of Swinton Lock Activity Centre have been told by RMBC that it is up to us to take appropriate actions. We disagree with many of the report’s findings, but we can confirm that we have thoroughly reviewed the report and taken actions where appropriate.
“We are proud of the work carried out by Swinton Lock Activity Centre including supporting victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.
“Dealing with the RMBC investigation has prevented us from applying for much needed grant funding to expand and enhance our services and we now look forward to building our services in the future.”