Rotherham victims and families demand ‘proper answers’ from Shaun Wright

Shaun Wright leaving Rotherham Town Hall
Shaun Wright leaving Rotherham Town Hall
Have your say

A devastated child sexual exploitation victim said she still wants ‘proper answers’ from Shaun Wright after confronting him at an emotional public meeting in Rotherham.

She also revealed that her baby was taken into care by authorities in Rotherham when he was just 17 days old, on Christmas Eve.

Holly Archer, who is now 17, has waived her right to anonymity to tell The Star police and social workers knew she was being abused for years - but took no action.

Holly said she believes Shaun Wright, who is now police and crime commissioner after being the Rotherham councillor in charge of children’s services between 2005 and 2010, should stand down.

Defiant Mr Wright, who is paid £85,000 per year, continues to refuse to resign, despite repeated calls from numerous politicians and members of the public for him to go.

He maintained yesterday that he had not known of the scale of abuse in Rotherham, and would have done more if he had done so.

“I have huge regrets I wasn’t more aware of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation problem,” he said.

“I would never, ever ignore anything so heinous as child sexual exploitation, neither would any right-minded decent thinking human being.”

Holly was one of several people involved in angry confrontations with Mr Wright during yesterday’s Police and Crime Panel meeting.

Holly told the meeting that, on one occasion, police found her with a known convicted sex offender - but she was arrested, while he was let go.

She said she would now lack the confidence to report anything to the police in the aftermath of the Jay Report.

She asked Mr Wright: “What’s going to happen if we come forward? Nothing’s going to be done, just like nothing’s been done in the past.”

Holly also revealed in the meeting her baby son has been taken away from her.

“They have stolen my baby and used my past against me,” she said.

Speaking after the meeting, she said her abuse at the hands of an older man started when she was 11 or 12 and was in care.

“I thought he was my boyfriend. I didn’t realise he was a sexual predator. Back then I’m not quite sure how I felt, but now I feel disgusting.”

She said she was pleased to have had the chance to confront Mr Wright about what happened to her.

“I’m glad I got to shout at him, it made me feel better. But I would have liked some proper answers,” she said.

“It makes me angry and upset. If they had done something about it then I wouldn’t be living with this now.

“If there was somebody else in charge, maybe it wouldn’t be the same.”

She said her baby son had been taken into care on Christmas Eve last year when she was 16, and he was just 17 days old. She is now allowed to see him just once a fortnight.

Holly’s mother Joanne Turner also expressed her anger about Mr Wright after the meeting.

“His response was just outrageous. What my family has been through, and what we have to go through for the rest of time, is not what people should have to deal with,” she said.

“I want my grandson back.”

Their comments followed a dramatic day in Rotherham, in which Mr Wright faced public questions for the first time since the publication of the Jay Report which highlighted 1,400 children in the town were subjected to horrors including being raped, trafficked and assaulted over a 16-year period.

But the commissioner did not stick around at the end of the meeting to hear the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel - which oversees his work - pass another vote of no confidence in him and endorse calls for a change in the law to enable him to be sacked.

During the meeting, members of the public and the police and crime panel asked him repeatedly why he had not resigned.

Mr Wright said it would have been ‘easiest’ for him to quit, but he feels he is the right person to tackle child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and has been responsible for increasing the number of police officers assigned to deal with the issue.

But he did also tell the panel that child sexual exploitation levels were just as high now as they were in the periods covered by the Jay Report. The commissioner agreed it was on an ‘industrial scale’.

He told the panel: “I’m afraid it is still going on today, it’s just as prevalent today as it was in 2010 or 2005 or indeed any period before that. All I can say is you’ve got my absolute commitment to continue the work that’s already been put in place, and to try to continue the progress that has been made since I’ve been police and crime commissioner.”