2 Sep 2014

Theresa May: dereliction of duty in Rotherham

The home secretary says a new chair will be appointed “soon” to handle an overarching inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, as Labour suspends three Rotherham councillors.

Theresa May said that she was, however, “deliberately” taking her time to find the right person after its appointed chair, Baroness Butler-Sloss, stepped down only days later.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Ms May said that there could be “no excuses” for abuse to take place and be ignored by authorities in Rotherham, after a devastating report found as many as 1,400 children were groomed by gangs for abuse over the past 16 years.

We will take our time but we will not delay in taking action in protecting children. Theresa May

She said that a number of investigations were currently taking place adding that the perpetrators “will be brought to justice”.

“I am clear that cultural concerns, both the fear of being seen as racist and the frankly disdainful attitude to some of our most vulnerable children must never stand in the way of child protection,” she said.

Ms May also said that South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright was only “accountable to the electorate and the ballot box”, and therefore could not be forced to resign.

‘Held to account’

The urgent questions came as Labour suspended four party members, including three councillors, over the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

The party suspended councillors Gwendoline Russell and Shaukat Ali, as well as the council’s former leader Roger Stone and ex-deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, pending an investigation.

Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) has taken control of a new “rigorous” procedure for selection of candidates to the local council in the South Yorkshire town.

Read more: why did those there to care for Rotherham's children look away?

In a statement, Labour said: “Following the report into the Rotherham child abuse scandal by Professor Alexis Jay, the Labour Party has today suspended four party members pending investigation.

“As Ed Miliband made clear last week, large numbers of young people in Rotherham were systematically abused and then let down by those who should have protected them. It cannot be allowed to stand.”

A scrutiny committee on child protection that includes independent advisers to help rebuild public confidence in the council is to be set up in the wake of the scandal, Labour said.

It added: “Further action against others in positions of responsibility at the time may follow. Those responsible must be, and will be, held to account.”

Independent investigation

South Yorkshire Police has also launched an independent investigation into the issues addressed in the report.

Chief Constable David Crompton said: “A fully independent and impartial investigation is required to ensure that people have confidence that organisations or any individuals will be investigated fairly, rigorously and with complete impartiality.

“The investigation will properly and independently examine the role of both the police and council during the period identified and address any wrongdoings or failings, which will allow the appropriate action to be taken”.