South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner was clinging to his job tonight as political pressure grows for him to step down in the wake of the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal.
Commissioner Shaun Wright was responsible for children’s services at Rotherham Council when the authorities turned a blind eye to child sex abuse by Asian gangs.
Reports tonight suggest the Labour Party will suspend Mr Wright from the party if he has not resigned by Thursday morning.
Leader of Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat party Coun Colin Ross has called for Mr Wright to ‘consider his position’ and UKIP MEP Jane Collins said he should step down.
Senior Labour party figures including Ed Balls and David Blunkett have also said he should go.
And Home Secretary Theresa May has said although it is not her job to ‘hire and fire’ police and crime commissioners, Mr Wright should ‘heed calls’ for his resignation.
A Labour Party spokesman said: “The report into child abuse in Rotherham was devastating in its findings. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down.
“In the light of this report, it is appropriate that South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright should step down.”
Mr Wright knew about the abuse in 2005 when he was a Labour councillor sitting on Rotherham Council’s cabinet and had responsibility for children’s services.
He has apologised and said he is ‘more determined than ever to lead police that root out evil’.
Mr Wright said the scale of the problem in Rotherham had ‘come as a surprise’.
“Had I known then what I know now I could have done more,” he said.
“As an elected member I came into this role to make a difference. At every stage I’ve done my utmost to protect those people.
“I have taken lessons learned in that office and brought them to bear in my new role with South Yorkshire Police.
“I believe I am the most appropriate person to hold this office at this current time,” he said.
Members of the English Defence League were also staging a small protest outside Rotherham police station this evening, calling for Mr Wright to go.
Star readers have also said he should step down.
Sarah Kelly posting on the Star’s Facebook page said: “Not only should he step down but he should face criminal charges along with anyone else involved in this shameful and disgusting neglect of children.”
While Mick Ibbotson, said: “If he doesn’t go, he should be sacked.”
South Yorkshire Police said today it will refer its officers to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if it emerges they failed to properly investigate child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
The statement comes following the publication of a damning independent report by Professor Alexis Jay which found more than 1,400 children in the town were victims of child sexual exploitation by gangs of Pakistani men between 1997 to 2003.
Yesterday it emerged police and Rotherham Council child protection bosses turned a blind eye to the problem because of fears they’d be accused of racism.
South Yorkshire Police has apologised unreservedly to the victims.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said today: “The force fully intends to implement the recommendations made in the Alexis Jay report, furthermore, where there is evidence that officers failed to properly investigate, or have covered up evidence, then this will be referred to the IPCC.
“Clearly many mistakes were made over the period covered by the report, and the acknowledgement that there have been a number of improvements to policing practice and resourcing in the last four years is welcome but will not make anyone complacent about the challenge this dreadful crime represents.”
The force said it was currently conducting a number of historic investigations relating to the period covered by the report.
The spokeswoman said: “They are complex, involving multiple suspects and multiple victims and at this stage it would be inappropriate to give further detail about these inquiries.”