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Angry public harangue commissioner

The grandfather of an alleged victim of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham told South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright - "If I had a gun I would shoot you" - during angry scenes today.

Mr Wright faced public questions for the first time since the publication of the report which highlighted how 1,400 children in the town were subjected to horrors including being raped, trafficked and assaulted in the town over a 16 year period.

But the commissioner did not stick around at the end of the meeting to hear the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel - which oversees his work - pass another vote of no confidence in him and endorse calls for a change in the law to enable him to be sacked.

He left the building escorted by police officers before the panel members reached their decision and got into a waiting car to shouts of "Shaun Wright out" from a small group of protesters.

The car, which appeared to be driven by a police officer, left at speed, its tyres screeching as it took the first bend behind Rotherham Town Hall.

Before he left, Mr Wright was booed as he entered the council chamber for the meeting and had to endure constant shouts for him to resign from the public gallery, including from victims of abuse in the town.

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.

Mr Wright was confronted from the public gallery by a man who said his 12-year-old granddaughter was arrested for being drunk and disorderly by police officers who let her four adult abusers go free.

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."

Earlier this week, South Yorkshire chief constable David Crompton was asked by MPs about the case of a 12-year-old sexual abuse victim who was arrested for being drunk when she was found in a derelict house with a group of men.

Mr Crompton said the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) would look into the incident.

Today, two young women who said they had been sexually exploited in Rotherham also questioned the commissioner, one repeatedly haranguing Mr Wright throughout the meeting.

Other members of the public asked him repeatedly why he had not resigned.

Mr Wright has been the focus of attention since the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report into the exploitation in Rotherham because he was the councillor with responsibility for children's services in the borough from 2005 to 2010.

Calls for him to step down have been led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

But he has resisted every challenge and when Labour threatened to throw him out of the party, he resigned his membership.

Today, chairman Harry Harpham said the panel had passed a vote of no confidence in the commissioner and endorsed calls made by the Home Affairs Select Committee for emergency legislation to change the law to enable PCCs to be sacked in "exceptional circumstances".

The panel oversees and questions the commissioner but can only suspend him if he is charged with a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty in excess of two years' imprisonment.

One member of the panel, Ukip's Caven Vines, resigned on the spot saying he could not bear to be in the same room as Mr Wright any more.

Mr Harpham also questioned how the commissioner could possibly continue his work, including public surgeries, in the face of this amount of hostility.

The chairman also revealed he had received two official complaints about Mr Wright which he had passed on to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Before he left, Mr Wright told the panel that child sexual exploitation levels were just as high now as they were in the periods covered by the Jay Report.

The commissioner agreed this was on an "industrial scale".

He told the panel: "It's a very difficult and complex issue to prevent.

"That shouldn't be any excuse for not trying to prevent it.

"But I'm afraid it is still going on today, it's just as prevalent today as it was in 2010 or 2005 or indeed any period before that.

"All I can say is that you've got my 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."

Mr Harpham said: "I think it was you who initially talked about the levels of child sexual exploitation on an industrial scale.

"Are you saying in your response that that level of child sexual exploitation is still taking place today?"

The commissioner said: "I have referred to the numbers, the 1,400 evidenced by Professor Jay, clearly that's exploitation on an industrial scale in my view.

"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."

Mr Wright also claimed Professor Jay told him she was "staggered" by how little information was given to him when he was the councillor with responsibility for children in the town.

He said Professor Jay interviewed him as she compiled her report and listed a number of reports and other documents he had not seen.

According to the commissioner, the professor said: "I was staggered at how little information was provided to you."

The IPCC confirmed it had received a referral from South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel regarding Mr Wright.

It said: " We will assess whether the matter is something which requires an investigation involving the IPCC.

"The IPCC can investigate Police and Crime Commissioners if there is evidence that they may have committed a criminal offence, either while in office or prior to them becoming Police and Crime Commissioners."


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