Abuse report 'painful' for police
The devastating report into the Rotherham sex abuse scandal makes "painful reading" for the police force covering the town, its chief constable has admitted.
South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton acknowledged the force had been heavily criticised but insisted that he was determined to learn lessons to ensure that past mistakes would not be repeated.
He has requested a meeting with Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report which indicated at least 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013 amid widespread failings by authorities.
Senior officials from Rotherham Borough Council will be called before MPs for questioning about the scandal, with the Communities and Local Government committee determined to find out why more heads have not rolled in response to the report's findings.
Chief executive Martin Kimber and strategic director of children and young people's services Joyce Thacker have been asked to appear before the committee.
Committee chairman Clive Betts said: " The report by professor Alexis Jay revealed an appalling failure by council staff at all levels. While, on the political side of the council, the leader has resigned, senior managers have shown no indication yet of taking any responsibility. We want to find out why."
Labour committee member Simon Danczuk added: "I will be asking what disciplinary action is being taken in the wake of this scandalous report. From the public's point of view it does look like too many senior managers at Rotherham are stubbornly clinging on to their jobs when their failures are writ large for all to see."
Mr Crompton faced questions about his force, but also the position of police and crime commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright, who has resisted calls to quit.
The chief constable said: "The report into CSE (child sexual exploitation) in Rotherham laid bare the failings of South Yorkshire Police over a number of years.
"This made for painful reading, however I am determined that we will use the findings of the report to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
"With this in mind I have written to Professor Jay to request a meeting, which will allow us to fully understand her detailed findings and properly address any concerns both past and present."
He added that more people were coming forward to report child sex exploitation, saying he regarded this as a "sign of confidence amongst victims that the force, as it stands now, will take these matters seriously and investigate them fully".
Mr Crompton refused to be drawn on the controversy surrounding Mr Wright, who was a Rotherham councillor for more than a decade and the council cabinet member for children's services from 2005 and 2010.
Calls for Mr Wright to step down have come from Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and the Labour Party.
Mr Crompton confirmed that he had been in contact with Mr Wright b ut he said he was not in a position to say where the PCC was.
He said: "I'm very well aware of the strong opinions (about Mr Wright) expressed by a variety of people.
"That's occurred both locally and also on a cross-party basis at national level.
"Clearly that's been very widely reported.
"Nevertheless, I think it's absolutely right that I make it absolutely clear that in the current circumstances this is not a debate that it is appropriate for the chief constable of the force to enter into.
"This is a debate for other people."
Asked if he knew where Mr Wright was, he said: "I have been in communication with him but I'm not in a position to say where he is."
And asked if he thought the focus on the PCC had taken the spotlight off South Yorkshire Police's failings, the chief constable said: "Whilst I accept there's been a great deal of focus on the police and crime commissioner, what I wouldn't accept is that somehow, by virtue of that, the force has escaped criticism.
"That's not the case. We've been criticised heavily. We take it seriously and we move on from here."
There was no sign of Mr Wright today, either at his office in the centre of Barnsley or at his £200,000 detached home in a Rotherham cul-de-sac.
His parking space at the force HQ in Sheffield was also empty.
The PCC has not been seen in public since Wednesday.
Rotherham council's former top officer is to be questioned by his current boss over what he knew about the town's sex abuse scandal.
Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson said he would speak to Ged Fitzgerald, Rotherham's chief executive from 2001 to 2003 and now in the same role in the Merseyside city, about what he knew about a Home Office report that revealed widespread sexual abuse of under-age girls.
Prof Jay's report on the abuse scandal said the reaction of senior police and council figures to Angie Heal's critical 2003 report "led to suspicions of collusion and cover-up", with the researcher accused of exaggerating her findings.
Meanwhile Mr Kimber today said he could find no evidence of an alleged raid by council staff on one of their own offices to remove evidence of the extent of the town's sex abuse crisis.
The Times reported that the offices of Risky Business, a youth project that worked with vulnerable young people, was targeted in 2002. It alleged that the only material and files removed were those used by Dr Heal to produce draft chapters of her report, which had been passed to officials in the town.
But Mr Kimber said: "The alleged 'raid' on the Risky Business office is not something that I am aware of and having made appropriate checks within the council, I am unable to find anyone who recognises this series of events as they have been presented to us."
Rotherham's former director of children's services faced calls from an abuse victims' advocate to step down from her current job in Australia.
Australian campaigner Andrew Collins said Sonia Sharp's role as a deputy secretary in the state of Victoria's education department, which she has held since 2012, was inappropriate.
Dr Sharp, who worked in Rotherham from 2005 to 2008, apologised to abuse victims yesterday and said staff were aware that "many" children were at risk. She said she wished she could have done more but insisted she had helped improve things during her tenure.