Embattled police chief quits post
South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner has quit his post following weeks of pressure over the Rotherham sexual abuse scandal.
Shaun Wright has until now resisted mounting calls to resign from the likes of the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Theresa May and his former party Labour, as well as alleged abuse victims and their families.
But Mr Wright, who was the councillor responsible for children's services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2010, finally handed in his notice, claiming he was doing so "for the sake of those victims".
The Office of South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said Mr Wright would not receive a severance payment, but can still access Local Government pension benefits from age 55.
The Home Secretary said she was pleased Mr Wright had heeded calls to step down, while Greater Manchester PCC Tony Lloyd said the move highlighted the urgent need for powers to remove commissioners between elections.
But a mother of one of the alleged victims said his late decision showed "how arrogant and indifferent he is".
The mother, whose 17-year-old daughter claims she was abused by men who groomed her using social media and raped her in Rotherham, Sheffield and Doncaster, said : "I'm glad he's done it and I hope he's the first in a long line. We need to get the rest of them out and then we'll know that children in Rotherham are safe."
She added: "He was quite an easy target, he was first in line. There are a lot more people below him that have covered up and all decided not to say anything. They've all colluded and I think it's disgusting."
"I think it just shows how arrogant and indifferent he is," she said.
Mr Wright has come under increased fire since the publication of Professor Alexis Jay's report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which revealed around 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the borough over a 16-year period.
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.
Announcing his resignation, Mr Wright said: "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."
Professor Jay's report hit out at " blatant" collective failures by the council's leadership and revealed 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''.
The Greater Manchester PCC said: "It was clear that Shaun Wright's position was untenable and he has finally done the right thing by standing down.
"This ridiculous situation, where he was able to cling on to his position for so long when it was clearly untenable, highlights the urgent need for stronger checks and balances in the system to ensure the power is there to remove police and crime commissioners between elections.
Last week, the Home Secretary acknowledged there was a "debate to be had" about introducing recall powers for PCCs.
Reacting to his decision to step down, she said: "I am pleased that Shaun Wright has heeded the calls from his local community for him to resign.
"It is right that where people failed in their duty they should take responsibility.
"The police and local council failed the victims of these awful crimes and failed the people of Rotherham.
"Police and Crime Commissioners are accountable to their local electorate.
"It is now for the people of South Yorkshire to elect someone who can provide local leadership, ensure the lessons of these dreadful cases are applied, and make sure the victims get the justice they deserve."
Mr Wright's resignation will trigger a by-election, the date of which is yet to be determined.
Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett immediately shot down calls for him to run for the role, despite his intention to step down as Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP next year.
Mr Blunkett said: "I am personally very sad for Shaun Wright's family who did not deserve to be in the spotlight, which is why it is a great pity for him and for all concerned that he did not step down immediately."
South Yorkshire Police chief constable, David Crompton, said: "The force acknowledges the PCC's resignation today. This represents an opportunity for the force, and the county, to move forward in light of Professor Jay's report about child sexual exploitation."
Neil Bowles, chairman of South Yorkshire Police Federation, said it was becoming "increasingly difficult" to work with Mr Wright in the wake of the report's publication.
Mr Bowles said: "It would have been difficult to see how we could work with him considering he had such little credibility in the political world.
"It will be interesting to see what the turn out for the by-election will be. The PCC is now definitely on the map. People will have heard of the office."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said "It is right Shaun Wright has resigned. He was in a position of responsibility when the abuse scandal happened.
"Our focus now must be to listen to the victims and learn from the past to ensure this can never happen again."
Rotherham's Labour MP Sarah Champion told BBC Radio 4's The World At One: "I really think he should have stepped down earlier, but I'm glad he's done it now.
"There was an awful lot of anger from victims that he was in post. The fact that he has stepped down will enable them to start rebuilding their lives."
Ms Champion said anyone in a position of authority in Rotherham who turned a blind eye to abuse was "culpable" and should come forward and admit their role.
"Both frontline staff in the police and frontline staff in the local authority were reporting these crimes over a 16-year period, but it was being blocked by their managers," she said.
"In terms of numbers, I'm not sure, but it's got to be a lot of people who were there at the time who turned a blind eye to the protection of these children, and that's unacceptable."
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee which questioned Mr Wright last week about the abuse scandal, said the former PCC had "done the right thing" and called for Joyce Thacker, the director of children's services in Rotherham, to resign too.
He said: "Shaun Wright has done the right thing. The Home Affairs Select Committee was unanimous in its view that Mr Wright was an unconvincing witness and called for his resignation a week ago. The victims need a fresh start and his presence would have impeded on that.
"The committee is in the process of drafting a bill to fill the important gap in legislation which would ensure that PCCs could be removed in similar circumstances to those in which Mr Wright found himself.
"I hope that the director of children's services, Joyce Thacker, will now heed the committee's advice to step down or that (Martin Kimber, Rotherham Council's former chief executive) will ask her to step aside.
"The victims of this horrific sexual exploitation deserve to have people they feel they can trust to help to resolve the problems in Rotherham. I sincerely hope that the next PCC is effective in helping these people obtain justice for the terrible crimes which have gone unpunished for so long."