Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Police vow to bring perpetrators to justice and announce independent inquiry

South Yorkshire Police have been criticised for failing to arrest abusers

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The Independent Online

Police have vowed to bring the men who sexually abused and exploited at least 1,400 children in Rotherham over 16 years to justice.

South Yorkshire Police have announced an independent investigation into the force's handling of allegations, following findings that victims were not taken seriously and even arrested in some cases.

Chief Constable David Crompton said that an external force would examine the role of both the police and the council over the 16 years of abuse when vulnerable girls were raped, trafficked, threatened and abused.

He said: "A fully independent and impartial investigation is required to ensure that people have confidence that organisations or any individuals will be investigated fairly, rigorously and with complete impartiality.

“The investigation will properly and independently examine the role of both the police and council during the period identified and address any wrongdoings or failings, which will allow the appropriate action to be taken.

"We must give victims the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that all agencies will listen, will act, provide appropriate support, and relentlessly pursue those who offend against our young people."

The South Yorkshire police force has been accused by inspectors of a cultural disregard for victims of crime

Professor Alexis Jay’s damning report found that senior council officers, elected politicians and police officers were aware of the problem for years but failed to tackle it.

One case study revealed a girl, known as child H, was found in a derelict house with another child and a number of men but instead of being taken into protection, was arrested for being drunk. No other arrests were made.

A Home Office researcher who looked into the allegations more than a decade ago claimed she was put under pressure to change her findings.

Speaking anonymously to BBC’s Panorama on Monday, she said: “I was subjected to most intense personal hostility. There were threats made from a range of sources. I've never seen back-covering like it and I still feel extremely angry about that.”

She said she was booked on a “diversity awareness” training course after highlighting the fact that most of the perpetrators she identified in her report were from the town's Pakistani heritage community.

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Rotherham Borough Council has refused to discipline or remove any councillors since the report was released but Labour has suspended four members who held positions of authority during the period examined.

Rotherham Borough Council was under Labour control at the time and the party has now suspended the former leader, Roger Stone, and ex-deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, as well as serving councillors Gwendoline Ann Russell, who heads the town's scrutiny panel for looked-after children, and Shaukat Ali, a former mayor.

Mr Stone resigned after a decade in the post following the report’s publication last week, apologising for “historic failings”.

Mr Akhtar stepped down as the council's deputy leader and vice-chair of the police and crime panel last year after press reports - which he denied - alleging he knew about a relationship between a relative and an under-age girl in care.

He resumed his post after being cleared by the police of any blame but lost his seat in the May election to Ukip.

Shaun-Wright.jpgSouth Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, quit Labour following the Jay Report but has refused to step down from his role, insisting he is still the “most appropriate person”.

As a former Labour councillor, he was the Rotherham Council cabinet member for children's services between 2005 and 2010 with responsibility for child protection.

Labour has instructed its group on Rotherham Borough Council to set up a scrutiny committee on child protection, including independent advisers, to help rebuild public confidence.

In a statement, a party spokesperson said: “As Ed Miliband made clear last week, large numbers of young people in Rotherham were systematically abused and then let down by those who should have protected them.

"It cannot be allowed to stand."

Additional reporting by PA