Concerns about a ‘deliberate cover-up’ over stolen and missing Rotherham sexual exploitation files may be examined as part of a new national inquiry into historic child abuse cases.
The Home Office has said the terms of reference for the independent inquiry chaired by lawyer and Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf are yet to be determined – but could include the missing Rotherham files in its remit.
It comes as a Home Affairs Select Committee report called for a ‘full, transparent and urgent investigation’ because of ‘public suspicion of a deliberate cover-up’.
MPs made the call after hearing evidence from a Rotherham Council researcher who had child sexual exploitation files taken from her locked office in 2002 as she worked on a Home Office-funded project to investigate ways of stopping grooming gangs.
The Home Office has already ordered an internal investigation into what information was passed to the department in 2002 and how it was handled, with NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless and Richard Whittam QC helping with the process.
But the select committee said concerns about the researcher’s stolen data – and other missing Rotherham files – meant more needs to be done.
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A Home Office spokesman said no decisions have yet been made, but the issue of the missing files ‘could well be looked at as part of the Woolf inquiry’.
Ms Woolf is due to give evidence to the committee this afternoon.
Professor Alexis Jay, the author of the previous report into abuse in Rotherham, has agreed to act as an expert adviser to the Woolf inquiry.
Professor Jay revealed last week that four years of meetings’ minutes between children’s social care teams, the police and the health service in Rotherham about exploitation issues have also gone missing.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has been very clear that what happened in Rotherham amounted to a total dereliction of duty by the authorities.
“The Home Secretary has announced an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse within public bodies and non-state institutions.”
He added: “Fiona Woolf will chair the inquiry and a complete list of panel members will be announced shortly.”