Children in Rotherham continue to be sexually exploited “on an industrial scale”, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright says as he faces calls to resign at a public meeting.
During the meeting at Rotherham Town Hall, members of the public, including abuse victims, harangued Mr Wright over why he was still in a job – following widespread calls for his resignation in the wake of the Jay Report – with one member of the crowd saying “If I had a gun I would shoot you”.
Channel 4 News Reporter Cordelia Lynch confronted Mr Wright over calls for his resignation, as he was hustled away by police officers, but the PCC did not comment (see video, above).
The Jay Report detailed how at least 1,400 children were subjected to horrific abuse including rape, violence and trafficking for sex between 1997 and 2013.
You were a disgrace, mate. If I had a gun I would shoot you. Grandfather of abuse victim
Before being elected to his PCC role in 2012, Mr Wright was a Rotherham councillor for a decade, and was responsible for children’s services from 2005 to 2010.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, and Labour leader Ed Miliband have all called for Mr Wright to step down.
However, Mr Wright told the meeting that Professor Jay, the author of the report, had told him she was “staggered at how little information” he had been provided with.
Very heated meeting in Rotherham. Members of the public shouting “liar” at Shaun Wright. #Rotherhamabuse
— Cordelia Lynch (@CordeliaLynchC4) September 11, 2014
During the meeting the grandfather of an abused 12-year-old confronted Mr Wright – saying on one occasion police had arrested the girl for being drunk and disorderly, but had let her four abusers go.
The man said: “You were a disgrace, mate. If I had a gun I would shoot you.”
Mr Wright responded, saying: “Clearly, if that took place, it’s an absolute disgrace.”
He told the meeting that the sexual exploitation of children was still happening at the same scale as identified in the report, saying it is “a very difficult and complex issue to prevent”.
“I have referred to the numbers, the 1,400 evidenced by Professor Jay, clearly that’s exploitation on an industrial scale in my view,” he said.
“But if you look at the referrals and the investigations that have taken place then, yes, it does appear that it is still at that level across Rotherham and indeed across South Yorkshire.
“Now whether that is 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 jury’s still out.”
You’ve got my absolute commitment to continue the work that’s already been put in place. Shaun Wright
An English Defence League member had to be ejected from the meeting for shouting as two victims of child sex abuse tried to ask questions. A number of EDL supporters left at this point, screaming at Mr Wright from the public gallery as they went.
Since Professor Jay’s report was published Mr Wright has received votes of no confidence from both Sheffield and Rotherham councils. Following his appearance in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Chairman Keith Vaz said he would ask Home Secretary Theresa May to bring in emergency laws to allow PCCs to be ousted.
Above: Shaun Wright during the Rotherham meeting
Other MPs have accused Mr Wright of clinging on to his job for a “love of the salary”.
During the meeting, chairman Harry Harpham said he had referred two complaints about Mr Wright to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
However, Mr Wright said he had an “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.”