Thursday, 28 August 2014

Rotherham: Those who looked the other way?

THE Home Secretary, Theresa May, has said that social workers, council bosses and police chiefs who failed to act to prevent the Rotherham sex abuse scandal ought to resign.  This follows a damning report produced by Professor Alexis Jay. 

Mrs May has said:
'I’ve seen the horrific cases they have looked into where young girls were the victims of the most appalling sexual exploitation and threats of violence, grooming and abuse and yet their calls for help went unheeded by the council or the police. I think everybody needs to look at the role they played in this and their position.'

Among those identified for failing in their responsibilities are Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, who has so far refused to resign despite holding responsibility for children’s services on Rotherham council, and Joyce Thacker, head of the council’s children’s services.  Mr. Wright has resigned from the Labour Party after leading figures in the party told him he ought to give up his current job, but he has so far refused to resign his current position as police and crime commissioner.

Mr Wright, who was elected to the £85,000-a-year commissioner’s post in 2012, having previously served as a Labour councillor with responsibility for children’s services, said on Wednesday that he had no idea about the   'industrial scale' of the abuse that had taken place.

Prof Jay, for her part has insisted that, given her findings that 'nobody could say "I didn’t know".'

Others who will be challenged for their alleged roles in the scandal include:
Paul Laker, a Labour councillor; Jahangir Akhtar, the former deputy leader of Rotherham council; Dr Sonia Sharp, the director of children’s services between 2005 and 2008; and Diane Billups, the council’s director of education and head of children’s services between 2001 and 2005.

Mr. Laker, a former steel-worker, a cabinet member for children's services since 2010 and deputy council leader is claiming that he had only recently grasped the 'depth and breadth' of the sex abuse problem in Rotherham.  Mr. Akhtar, another former deputy leader of the council, was temporarily forced out of office after claims that he was aware of a relationship between one of his own relatives and a 14-year-old girl.  The police cleared him of any wrongdoing after an investigation, and he lost his seat on the council last May.  Mrs. Billups has since retired, and Dr. Sharp now works in a department of education in Austrialia.  Joyce Thacker, 56, is currently on £115,000-a-year as director of children and young people's services; she was in charge four years ago when five Asian men were convicted of raping three girls as young as 12. 

Ms. Thacker has said by way of explanation and justification:
'I would put the responsibility back on the parents. It is their duty to protect their children and keep them safe.  We couldn't be with them 24-hours a day.'

Yesterday, the former MP for Rotherham, Denise MacShane, was more straight-forward in accepting that he should have done more.  On BBC News Mr. MacShane said:
'I should have burrowed into this.  Perhaps, yes, as a true Guardian reader and a liberal leftie I suppose, I didn't want to rock the boat I didn't want to raise that too hard.'

It seems that Mr. MacShane has previously admitted that he, like other politicians, had feared losing Muslim votes if he aired 'the dirty secrets about bad practices in the Kashmiri Muslim community'.

We must wait to see if this mentality is more widespread among the politicians in our northern town halls.

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