Police called in over '˜lies' by former commissioner on Rotherham child sex scandal

PARLIAMENT has asked the police to investigate allegations a former police and crime commissioner lied to MPs when he gave evidence to a Commons committee about the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.

The Home Affairs Select Committee has referred the allegations against Shaun Wright, former South Yorkshire PCC, to the Metropolitan Police for investigation.

In a statement, the committee said tonight: “The Home Affairs Committee has received two complaints alleging that a witness who was examined on oath by the former Committee in the last Parliament deliberately misled the Committee.

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“Since lying to a committee of the House when under oath would constitute the criminal offence of perjury, the Committee has resolved today to refer the complaints to the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis for investigation. Any further action is for the police and the prosecuting authorities to consider.

“Since a criminal offence is alleged, it would not be appropriate for the Committee to make any further comment.”

MPs on the committee made the dramatic decision to ask the police to investigate while meeting in private today ahead of a formal public session on a separate inquiry into hate crime.

The committee took the action after it was passed complaints about Wright’s conduct which were initially received by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel.

Details of the allegations forwarded by the panel are not known but it is known they involve evidence Mr Wright gave to the committee in September 2014.

The panel initially referred complaints it received about Mr Wright’s conduct to the Independent Police Complaints Commission but subsequently forwarded them to the committee last month after the IPCC ruled it could take no action. It said giving false evidence to the committee could be considered a contempt of Parliament but not a criminal offence.

However, the Home Affairs Committee has now decided Mr Wright’s conduct could amount to a criminal offence.

When the former PCC appeared before the committee he was one of a number of key witnesses on the child grooming scandal who were required to give evidence under oath - a relatively rare step for a select committee to take. The chairman at the time, Keith Vaz, explicitly warned him that meant action could potentially be taken for perjury if he gave false evidence.

During the course of Mr Wright’s appearance, Mr Vaz made it clear the committee did not accept his evidence.

In particular, Mr Vaz took issue with Mr Wright’s claims he was not aware child sexual exploitation was a significant problem while he was responsible for children’s services as a Rotherham Council cabinet member between 2005 and 2010.

At one point, Mr Vaz said: “We do not accept for one moment the evidence you have just given that you did not know that this was an issue.

“We accept as a committee that you did know. We accept the evidence that has been given by people who have come here before this committee and gave evidence before the committee last year that you were well aware of what was happening. That is our view as a committee.”

Other MPs took issue with Wright’s evidence that he did not recollect a reported face-to-face meeting with a victim of sexual exploitation.

The PCC was giving evidence in the wake of the publication of a devastating report two weeks earlier that found at least 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report described the abuse, which included girls as young as 11 being raped by multiple men, as appalling and laid bare the failure of the council and South Yorkshire Police to tackle a problem that was an open secret in the town and had been raised in a series of official reports.

Mr Wright told the committee he didn’t recall a single report from Ofsted or any other external organisation that flagged the abuse as being a significant issue and said he had acted on recommendations in internal reports, including the provision of increased resources.

A week after the committee appearance, Mr Wright finally resigned as police and crime commissioner after a chorus of calls for him to go, including one from then prime minister David Cameron.