Rochdale police chief urged to stand down

Home Secretary Theresa May last night heaped further pressure on embattled police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright by appearing to join calls for him to quit after a shocking report into child abuse in Rotherham.
Shaun Wright. Picture: SWNSShaun Wright. Picture: SWNS
Shaun Wright. Picture: SWNS

Mr Wright was the council cabinet member responsible for children’s services in the South Yorkshire town from 2005 to 2010, in the middle of a 16-year period when, according to the report, 1,400 youngsters suffered widespread sexual exploitation including gang rapes, grooming and trafficking.

So far, he has resisted pressure for him to leave the post, insisting he had no knowledge of the “industrial scale” child abuse when he was a Labour councillor in Rotherham.

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Last night, a Labour source said Mr Wright would be suspended from the party if he had not resigned by the morning.

Speaking yesterday in Dumfries, Mrs May said it was not her job to select or dismiss 
police and crime commissioners (PCCs) but appeared to suggest he should heed calls from his own party to go.

She said: “Shaun Wright obviously has had involvement in this, both as his role as a councillor and obviously he’s now the police and crime commissioner.

“The whole point of [PCCs] is that they are elected.

“But I believe his own party have called for him to resign and I think in the circumstances he should heed those calls.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added her voice to the calls for Mr Wright to resign. “We have said we think the police and crime commissioner should stand down, just as the leader of the council has done, because 1,400 children were abused and they were let down badly by the authorities,” she said.

The Home Secretary said the report contained accounts of “frankly the most horrific cases” in which young girls were victims of “the most appalling” sexual exploitation, threats of violence and grooming.

Mrs May added: “Yet their calls for help went unheeded by the council or by the police.

“Everybody needs to look at the role they played in this and at their position.”

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Mr Wright apologised to victims but insisted he had no knowledge of the child abuse.

But the Labour Party said he should step down from his £85,000-a-year PCC role following the publication of the damning report into the scandal.

A Labour spokesman said: “The report into child abuse in Rotherham was devastating. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down. In the light of this report, it is appropriate that Shaun Wright should step down.”

The author of the report, 
Professor Alexis Jay, appeared to cast doubt on Mr Wright’s claims that he was not aware of the scale of the problem.

She said: “Part of my remit was to identify what information was available to key people in positions of influence throughout that time. By April 2005, it seemed to me that nobody could say ‘I didn’t know’.”

Prof Jay said: “I have spent decades looking at child protection and I have never encountered such brutality and such abuse.”

Mr Wright, elected as PCC in 2012, insisted he had taken his share of responsibility by quitting Rotherham Council in 2010 after the scandal was first revealed.