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Rotherham: Shaun Wright bows to pressure and steps down as South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner

Shaun Wright has stepped down as South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner after weeks of pressure over the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal, his office has announced.

Shaun Wright has come under increased fire since the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham as he was the councillor with responsibility for children's services in the borough from 2005 to 2010.

He initially resisted mounting calls to resign in the wake of the publication of the report from the likes of the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and his former party, Labour.

But in a statement released today by his office, Mr Wright resigned, saying: "My role as South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner has clearly become prominent in terms of public opinion and media coverage following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report.

"This is detracting from the important issue, which should be everybody's focus - the 1,400 victims outlined in the report - and in providing support to victims and bringing to justice the criminals responsible for the atrocious crimes committed against them.

"With this in mind, I feel that it is now right to step down from the position of police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, for the sake of those victims, for the sake of the public of South Yorkshire and to ensure that the important issues outlined in the report about tackling child sexual exploitation can be discussed and considered in full and without distraction."

Mr Wright faced angry scenes last week as he appeared in public before the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel (PCP), which oversees his work, as alleged victims of abuse shouted at him from the public gallery.

At times the meeting had to be stopped for appeals to be made for people to calm down as screams of derision were directed at the commissioner as he explained himself in Rotherham's council chamber.

The commissioner did not stick around at the end of the meeting to hear the Panel pass another vote of no confidence in him and endorse calls for a change in the law to enable him to be sacked.

The Home Secretary last week acknowledged "there is a debate to be had" over bringing in powers to recall PCCs.

Professor Jay's report revealed around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham over the 16-year period, predominantly by men from the Pakistani community, and hit out at "blatant" collective failures by the council's leadership.

She found examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally-violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".

Mr Wright's resignation will trigger a by-election, the date of which is yet to be determined.

Shaun Wright's statement in full

"My role as South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner has clearly become prominent in terms of public opinion and media coverage following the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report. This is detracting from the important issue, which should be everybody's focus - the 1,400 victims outlined in the report - and in providing support to victims and bringing to justice the criminals responsible for the atrocious crimes committed against them.

"With this in mind, I feel that it is now right, to step down from the position of Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, for the sake of those victims, for the sake of the public of South Yorkshire and to ensure that the important issues outlined in the report about tackling child sexual exploitation can be discussed and considered in full and without distraction.

"As I've previously stated, I entered into public service to make a positive difference in South Yorkshire. Protecting vulnerable people and particularly victims of child sexual exploitation has been my number one priority as Commissioner and much progress has been made over the last two years.

"My intention had always been to continue my work with South Yorkshire Police and partners in making all the necessary changes and improvements required to safeguard and support the victims of these horrific crimes, and indeed to protect further potential victims through preventative actions.

"On resigning, I therefore truly wish the force, all the very best in continuing the journey of positive transformational change of those essential services which protect and support our most vulnerable people."

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