Pressure mounts on crime chief over ‘untouchable’ Rotherham Asian gang

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DAVID CAMERON has joined the chorus of calls for embattled South Yorkshire police commissioner Shaun Wright to quit over the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

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Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright. Picture: Ross Parry Agency

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The Prime Minister described a report into 16 years of widespread child abuse in the Yorkshire town as “deeply shocking”.

He said: “I think the Home Secretary (Theresa May) was right yesterday to say, having looked at the report, the fact that the police commissioner was at the time head of children’s services, that the right decision would be to resign and take full responsibility for what happened.”

Tracey Cheetham

Tracey Cheetham

It came as the fallout from Professor Alexis Jay’s inquiry continues, with the resignation of the county’s deputy police and crime commissioner Tracy Cheetham.

At the same time, a separate inquiry found that South Yorkshire Police’s public protection unit (PPU), which handles sex crimes such as rape, honour-based violence and domestic abuse, had an “unacceptable” culture that saw officers spending a lot of time trying to disprove allegations, a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) says.

And an ex-council official said senior authority figures knew “many” children were at risk of sexual exploitation almost a decade ago.

Mr Wright resigned from the Labour Party last night after the party threatened to suspend him unless he stepped down.

He has faced repeated calls to quit because he was the Rotherham Council cabinet member for children’s services between 2005 and 2010.

But in a statement he said: “I formally tender my resignation from the Labour Party. However, I remain committed to, and intend to remain in, my role as an Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.”

Mr Wright defended a two-decade record in public service and insisted protecting vulnerable people was his number one priority as commissioner, a post to which he was elected in 2012.

His statement, posted on the official website of the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, said: “I have had to make the difficult decision to stand down from the Labour Party and it’s with deep regret that I’ve come to that decision.”

Meanwhile, a victim of sexual exploitation by a gang in Rotherham has waived her right to anonymity to tell of her ordeal and how her attackers felt “untouchable”.

The woman, named in the Sun as Sarah Wilson, 22, was reportedly among 1,400 children and teenagers identified as victims of sexual abuse in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013 in a report this week.

She told the paper she had suffered dozens of attacks over five years after being groomed from the age of 11 and she was speaking out now to persuade other victims to come forward.

Of the gang of Asian men involved, she said: “They felt there were fearless and untouchable. They laughed and said they would never be punished.”

And she said police and social workers failed to spot her vulnerability.

“The police said I was asking for it and that I didn’t do myself any favours by hanging around with these men,” she said.

“I was taken in by social services half a dozen times and had an assigned social worker who was very much aware of what was happening. I was too scared to open up fully about what happened, I was so young.

“I was being viciously groomed and locked in strange homes with dirty, filthy men. I had no voice to speak. No one listened.”

She also joined the calls for commissioner Shaun Wright to resign.

Reports from a Labour source emerged last night indicated the police tsar would be suspended today if his resistance to quit continues.

Mrs May said: “Shaun Wright obviously has had involvement in this. It’s not my job to hire and fire police and crime commissioners. The whole point of them is that they are elected by the people, so ultimately it is a choice for the electorate.

“I believe his own party have called for him to resign. He has real questions to answer and I think in the circumstances he should heed those calls.”

The Labour source told the BBC: “If he has not resigned by the morning we will suspend him from the Labour party.”

It comes as the lawyer representing 15 women sexually abused as children in Rotherham called on council bosses to track down all local victims of Asian grooming gangs so they can be offered compensation.

Rotherham council was already facing legal action on behalf of 15 of the victims of abuse for failing to act despite being warned of the widespread abuse of young girls in three separate reports. David Greenwood, of Yorkshire law firm Switalskis, representing 15 of the victims, said the numbers seeking compensation for child exploitation will “inevitably increase”.

He said: “These girls have real trust issues. It has been incredibly difficult to engage them in the court process.

“The issue here is that this cohort of girls and young women have now lost trust in the establishment. The council should be forced to look through their records to identify these girls, invite them personally to make complaints and offer compensation.”

Mr Wright has insisted he had no knowledge of the “industrial scale” of the child abuse when he was a Labour councillor in the town, which was laid bare by an independent inquiry.

The report said that the council, police and social services turned a blind eye to exploitation over 16 years from 1997.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper called the report “damning” and made a public plea for Mr Wright to follow the actions of Roger Stone, the former Rotherham Council leader who quit on Tuesday. She said: “We think the police and crime commissioner should stand down, just as the leader of the council has done.”

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post last night, a South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner spokeswoman said: “As far as we are concerned he (Mr Wright) has left the office for the day and will not be making any comment or interviews tonight or into tomorrow morning.”