Police and Crime Commissioner to be grilled again over child sex abuse in Rotherham

Shaun Wright
Shaun Wright
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Under-fire South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright is gearing up to be grilled today by the panel which oversees his work.

Mr Wright has resisted widespread and repeated top-level calls for him to resign since the publication of the Jay Report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham which detailed how at least 1,400 children were subjected to horrors including rape, violence and trafficking for sex between 1997 and 2013.

Before his election in 2012 Mr Wright was a councillor in Rotherham for more than a decade and was the member of the council with responsibility for children’s services from 2005 to 2010.

Calls for him to step down have been led by Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

But he has resisted every challenge and when Labour threatened to throw him out of the party, he resigned his membership.

Earlier this week, Mr Wright appeared before the Home Affairs committee of the Commons and was again told he should resign immediately.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was asking Mrs May to bring in emergency laws to allow PCCs to be ousted as the MPs accused Mr Wright of clinging on to his job for a “love of the salary”.

Mr Wright told the committee: “I basically think that resigning would have been, perhaps, the easy option given the last fortnight with the various criticisms that have been made and the effect that that’s had on both myself and my family.”

Pressed again by Mr Vaz, Mr Wright said: “I don’t recall one single external report from Ofsted or any other organisation that flagged CSE as being a significant issue.”

He said: “Over that period of time not one member of the public came to a surgery of mine, not one local councillor asked me a question, either in my political group or in full council, not one local MP in Rotherham raised the issue or a case of CSE for those five years.”

Mr Vaz told him: “We don’t accept any of that.”

Mr Wright said he had no recollection of having been given first-hand evidence by young victims of the abuse that was going on.

Rotherham Council followed neighbouring Sheffield on Wednesday in passing a vote of no confidence in the PCC.

Mr Wright is due to appear before South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel which is meeting in Rotherham at 11am today.

In papers released ahead of the meeting, the panel said: “The discussion at the meeting will focus on the Police and Crime Commissioner’s response to this report and will provide an opportunity for panel members to seek reassurances from the commissioner that he is still in a position to carry out his duties effectively as a result of its publication.”

But the papers also point out the limited powers available to the panel with respect to the PCC.

It said: “In terms of considering the course of action to be taken by the panel, members are reminded that they have limited powers in respect of the commissioner.

“The panel handles complaints in respect of the commissioner’s conduct, which it has the power to informally resolve. However, the panel does not have any power to impose any sanctions or penalties upon the commissioner.

“In addition, if the commissioner is charged with a criminal offence which carries a maximum penalty in excess of two years imprisonment, the panel has the power to suspend him.

“It is recommended therefore that panel members consider whether they feel sufficiently reassured.”

Mr Vaz told Mr Wright on Wednesday that he had spoken to the chairman of the panel who had told him all the members thought he should go.