Rotherham Council has refused to answer questions over claims that 21 laptops containing children’s data went missing from its offices without any sign of a break-in.
The Casey Report, a government investigation into Rotherham Council’s response to the town’s child abuse scandal first exposed in the Jay Report, claimed the authority failed to report the theft of 21 laptops from its then-base at Norfolk House on October 21, 2011.
It said that although the council investigated the missing laptops, there was some dispute over the amount of data on them.
The authority ‘restructured’ the whistleblower who exposed it out of the organisation, and then covered up the scale of what happened, the report claims.
The Casey Report said councillors discussing the issue at a meeting were given a report recommending they did not tell the Information Commissioner’s Office about the theft due to the risk of a ‘hefty fine’.
But the council does not have minutes of that meeting, according to the Casey report.
The report added: “Whilst it is not possible to prove exactly what was held and therefore what was lost, evidence seen by inspectors confirms that the council did cover up the scale of the loss known at the time.”
The case has echoes of a similar incident in 2002. Several child abuse files were stolen from a locked office to which only a few senior managers had access, and there was no sign of a break-in.
Rotherham Council told The Star its investigation was ‘ongoing’ into the 2002 incident, but refused to answer questions about the 2011 case, including whether anyone had been reprimanded, what happened to the minutes of the meeting and whether the same managers were involved in both incidents.
A spokesperson for Rotherham Borough Council said: “We are currently considering the implications of the report as well as reviewing allegations of historic misconduct.”
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion slammed the council and demanded the truth is uncovered.
She said: “It is vital that we get to the bottom of exactly what happened. The council admitted that sensitive data was lost, but according to the Casey report there was some dispute over the amount of data which had been taken.
“How much data was lost is a red herring. Just one piece of sensitive data relating to victims of child sexual exploitation is too much. As soon as the theft was reported it should have been dealt with as a matter of urgency - unfortunately it appears that wasn’t the case. I hope now it has been highlighted by the Casey Report, we will finally uncover the truth.”