No measures over abuse inaction
No council employees will face disciplinary action in a town where 1,400 children suffered sexual exploitation in a 16-year period, the local authority's chief executive has said.
Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone resigned today following the publication of a shocking report which detailed gang rapes, grooming, trafficking and other sexual exploitation on a wide scale in the South Yorkshire town.
But council chief executive Martin Kimber said he did not have the evidence to discipline any individuals working for the council despite the report saying there had been "blatant" collective failures by its leadership at the time.
There were also calls for South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright to consider his position tonight.
Mr Wright is a former Rotherham Labour councillor and was cabinet member for Children Services between 2005 and 2010.
Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the report, said she found "utterly appaling" 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".
She said: "They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated."
She said she found that girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men.
A spokesman for Number 10 said: "The failings of local agencies exposed by this inquiry are appalling."
Mr Stone resigned his post within minutes of the report being published.
He said in a statement: "I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so."
Mr Kimber was repeatedly asked to justify the decision to bring no disciplinary actions to anyone at the council at a press conference in the town.
He said there was not evidence to discipline anyone still employed at the authority suggested the current employers of senior managers who have worked for Rotherham Council in the past should study the report carefully.
The spotlight first fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last four years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Following the 2010 case, The Times claimed that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted.
The allegations led to a range of official investigations, including one by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Today's report - commissioned by the council - said failures of the political and officer leadership of Rotherham Council between 1997 and 2009 were "blatant" as the seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers and was not seen as a priority by South Yorkshire Police.
Prof Jay said police "regarded many child victims with contempt".
These failures happened despite three reports between 2002 and 2006 "which could not have been clearer in the description of the situation in Rotherham".
She said one of these reports was "effectively suppressed" and the others were ignored.
The reports also said that "several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist" as most of the perpetrators were described by the victims as Asian.
Prof Jay concluded in her report: "No one knows the true scale of the child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years.
"Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013."
Rotherham district police commander Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin said: "Firstly I'd like to start by offering an unreserved apology to the victims of Child Sexual Exploitation who did not receive the level of service they should be able to expect from their local police force. We fully acknowledge our previous failings."
The officer said that in the last 12 months in Rotherham 15 people have been prosecuted or charged with CSE-related offences and his officers are currently dealing with 32 live investigations
John Cameron, head of NSPCC helpline at the NSPCC, said: "It appears there was at a senior level a collective blindness over many years to the suffering of children who endured almost incomprehensible levels of violence and intimidation."
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive of Victim Support said: "Time and again we see the same pattern repeated. Until those in authority focus on the sexual abuse and not the symptoms of that abuse, the lives of vulnerable young people like the victims in Rotherham will go on being ruined."
Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan said: "The horrific nature of the child sexual exploitation which took place in Rotherham is truly shocking. These vicious sexual predators should never have been allowed to put these children through such hell for so long."