Rotherham abuse: The man Westminster wants to quit defies MPs

EDL protests against Shaun Wright in Rotherham
EDL protests against Shaun Wright in Rotherham
Alex Stevenson By

MPs are demanding an emergency law to remove police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright from office, after one of the severest grillings in parliamentary history.

Home affairs committee chair Keith Vaz said he would be writing to home secretary Theresa May requesting the legislation governing PCCs be amended, after declaring Wright's evidence "entirely unconvincing".

The ex-Labour PCC for South Yorkshire, who ran Rotherham's children's services for five years while authorities took a "blatant" disregard to widespread child sexual exploitation, continued his defiant stance in Westminster this afternoon.

"I can't honestly say I was aware of the industrial scale that's been described by Professor Jay until I read Professor Jay's report," he insisted.


"The best apology that anyone in my position can give a victim is to do our utmost to make sure that they receive the support that they need to recover and that we put in place proper measures to prevent it happening to other people.

"I have done nothing but reflect on my position and I have determined that the best that I can do for victims past, present and potentially future is to stay in my role and see through the work that I have set in train."

Wright, who has already accepted responsibility for his part in the "collective failures" at Rotherham borough council which led to at least 1,400 children being sexually exploited, said quitting would have been "the easy option".

He insisted he could not remember any official report flagging child sexual exploitation as a significant issue in his time at Rotherham.

"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," he said.

Vaz replied: "We don't accept any of that."

Professor Alexis Jay's report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham revealed countless instances of children being "violently raped, beaten, forced to perform sex acts in taxis and cars when they were being trafficked between towns, and serially abused by large numbers of men".

Many children became suicidal and repeatedly self-harmed, while years afterwards "a disproportionate number were victims of domestic violence, had developed long-standing drug and alcohol addiction, and had parenting difficulties with their own children, resulting in child protection/children in need interventions".

Wright's decision to resist the near-universal calls for him to resign has led to increased activism from the far-right English Defence League, which has protested in Rotherham against him.

Vaz added: "It is the unanimous view of this committee that you should resign immediately.

"We don't believe that you command the confidence of the public… for your own sense of honour, if you believe that exists, you should do so immediately."

Also appearing today was Meredydd Hughes, who served as Chief Constable of South Yorkshire police from 2004 until 2011.

He said he had not seen three of the four reports cited by the Jay report until he read them last night.

Hughes told MPs: "I am not immune to the ideas that this is a hideous crime, and I am deeply embarrassed, but I can say with honesty that at the time I was both deputy and chief constable, I had no idea of the scale or scope of this type of organised crime."

But Vaz repeatedly responded by insisting "we find this impossible to believe", before rebuking Hughes for complaining about the "media-driven" nature of the questioning.

"I have signally failed the victims of these criminals," Hughes added.

"It hurts, it's something that I loathe, but to say I am misleading and lying to this committee - I can only say I welcome the fact there will be an independent inquiry into the documentation and whole history of this."

Hughes said he was "struggling" as he was forced to admit he could not name any of the "three or four" chairs of the South Yorkshire police authority during the time he was chief constable.

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