Serious child abuse conduct failures at Rotherham Council 'more cock up than conspiracy' - report

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A review into the conduct of senior manager at Rotherham Council at the time of the town's child abuse scandal has found serious failures were "more cock-up than conspiracy".

A report found: "We have not found evidence to support any notion that any individual 'turned a blind eye' to CSE in Rotherham. But neither is there much evidence of 'inquiring minds' or a purposive approach when evidence of what was happening did come to their attention.

"The actions taken to tackle CSE are the focus of this report, but one of the main problems in Rotherham was that no one had sole responsibility either for identifying CSE or for implementing strategies to tackle it. In our view, no individual officer can or should be held out as solely or principally culpable for the Council's failings."

Report author Mark Greenburgh told a council meeting: "No one person was uniquely culpable. Put plainly, it was more cock-up than conspiracy."

But he added there had been "surprising lapses of memory" from some of the people who were interviewed, while other former councillors and officers had refused to participate.

He said: "I'm sure there will be many who feel real anger at our findings. I wish there was a simpler and clearer answer."

A series of six new reports into various aspects of the scandal were published on Wednesday.

The author of one review into the conduct of senior managers associated with Rotherham Council's failings told a meeting in the town he had found that it was "more cock-up than conspiracy" at the local authority.

Mr Greenburgh added "there's simply little or anything that Rotherham Council can do" to take action against former senior staff.

The six reports were commissioned by the council in the wake of the Jay Report, which laid bare how at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013 by gangs of men of largely Pakistani heritage.

Mr Greenburgh said in relation to seven named senior officers that "whilst there may have been errors of judgement or missed opportunities as detailed in this report; and a failure in some cases to tackle cultural issues effectively ...... we have found no culpable behaviour which could now justify any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind."

In relation to former council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, who is now chief executive of Liverpool City Council, his report said "we recommend that the council refers this report and its findings to the current employer of Mr Fitzgerald and (former head of children and families) Ms (Jacqueline) Wilson."

It said: "It is important to be clear that we have not found that either of these people were uniquely culpable for the council's response to emerging evidence of CSE.

"But there are points at which each missed opportunities to have changed the outcomes."

Another of the new reports looked in detail at the 15 children identified as examples in Professor Alexis Jay's 2014 report and concluded "there are insufficient grounds to proceed with any action against any individual practitioner or team manager" in 14 of the 15 cases.

Independent consultant Jean Imray, who carried out the report, said: "With the exception of one case (Child E), I have not found any examples of individual casework so poor or dangerous that disciplinary action against individual practitioners would be warranted.

"I believe the practice I have reviewed is indicative of widespread systemic failure rather than anything for which individual practitioners can be held to account.

"The failings evident in Child E were of such magnitude that a more detailed, forensic review of that case was warranted.

"There is, in my view, prima facie evidence of significant culpability by at least two social care professionals."

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said: “I had hoped that today’s publication of the reports into Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) preventing child sexual exploitation would draw a line under the catalogue of errors that led to our children being let down so badly by those supposed to protect them.

"However, despite these huge failures, leading to at least 1,400 victims being let down, it appears that no individual at RMBC has yet been held to account for their role.

"How are the survivors meant to rebuild their lives without the closure these reports could have brought? How is Rotherham meant to have confidence that this will never happen again unless we know exactly what went wrong? This feels like a completely wasted opportunity to allow the town to move forward.

"I am also frustrated by the repeated delay of reports from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into the conduct of officers at South Yorkshire Police (SYP). Whilst I appreciate that these inquiries are complex, we must understand what went wrong if we are to be able to prevent it in the future.”

The former shadow women and equalities secretary was forced to quit her frontbench role last month after a backlash for saying "Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls".

She said: "How are the survivors meant to rebuild their lives without the closure these reports could have brought?

"How is Rotherham meant to have confidence that this will never happen again unless we know exactly what went wrong?

"This feels like a completely wasted opportunity to allow the town to move forward."