A former Rotherham MP has said he “deeply regrets” not raising the refusal of the police to take action against a child grooming gang up with the Home Office in light of the town’s subsequent abuse scandal.
Sir Kevin Barron, the former MP for Rother Valley, said he was approached by the father of an underage girl in 2003 who was the victim of what is now known as child sexual exploitation who questioned why the police were refusing to act.
He said he raised the case with senior police officers in Rotherham in early 2004 but was told there was no prospect of conviction.
In August 2014, the Jay inquiry revealed there had been at least 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013 but Sir Kevin said the case was the only occasion the matter was raised by a constituent with him.
“I was sat in this office in December 2003 and this guy came in and he told me about what happened to his daughter. They lived nearby. He told me this story which I couldn’t believe. I went to see within a week the girl and her mum. I wrote to South Yorkshire Police and said I would like them to have a meeting with the parents and me and the local superintendent.
“They refused. I deeply regret now not writing to the Home Office.”
Sir Kevin said he subsequently went on to have a meeting with a senior police officer about the matter and was told it was felt the girl would not make a “good witness” should the case go to court.
“I said that is a matter for the courts and I was told, ‘The thing is, it is a relationship’. “I said, ‘So it’s a relationship when this child is in a room with four or five men, some of them old enough to be her father, that’s a relationship?’ They looked at the floor and I said the answer is not on the floor. I was fuming.”
The father in the case gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in 2013 where he said Sir Kevin had been “very, very good” in taking up the case but the MP’s request for a meeting between the family and Rotherham police was refused.
The girl whose case was raised with Sir Kevin subsequently saw her abusers convicted as part of a series of trials that have taken place since the publication of the Jay report.
Shortly after the publication of the Jay report in August 2014, Barron and fellow Rotherham Labour MPs John Healey and Sarah Champion were then accused by Ukip MEP Jane Collins of knowing about the scandal but failing to act in a party conference speech that was broadcast on television.
Sir Kevin and his fellow MPs successfully sued Collins over her unsubstantiated claims, with him and Healey also taking legal action against another Ukip politician called Caven Vines who had made similarly unfounded allegations.
“It was just not true,” said Sir Kevin. “The worst thing about this for me was my mum was alive when those allegations were made. When they eventually got to court and it was proven they were completely unfounded she had died. I don’t think for one minute my mum would have thought I would have known and not done anything about that but I deeply regret that.”
Sir Kevin, who has just retired as an MP having represented Rother Valley since 1983, said that in the context of the abuse scandal and the allegations by the Ukip politicians, the 2015 General Election was “the worst I had ever fought” with him facing threats of physical violence.
He said: “The hustings were awful. I stopped the Labour party going to them because there had been fights. I was offered out on one occasion by this guy. It was mob rule quite frankly.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct said in May it is in the closing stages of more than 90 investigations into complaints about how South Yorkshire Police dealt with child sexual abuse cases in Rotherham.
IOPC Director for Major Investigations Steve Noonan said at the time: “This operation is unprecedented in terms of size, scope and sensitivity.”