The child abuse scandal in Rotherham shows no sign of abating, with the latest revelations that a researcher in 2001 who submitted a report noting that most of the abusers were Asian men being told to “never, ever” repeat the evidence and sent on a diversity course.
Meanwhile Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for South Yorkshire, has faced calls from David Cameron to resign, after a report said that “his force” had tried to disprove allegations made by victims. His deputy has also, very decently and honourably, resigned already. Mr Wright was elected as a Labour candidate but resigned from the Labour Party to avoid being suspended over the scandal. He has so far refused to resign as PCC.
And indeed he may be right to do so. Operational police matters are a matter for the Chief Constable of the force concerned, not the PCC. The PCC sets the budget and the strategic priorities, but the Chief Constable executes the strategy. What is even more telling is that PCC’s did not even exist when this scandal was taking place – they were not created until 2012.
Of the four officers named in the report, just one, Richard Tweed, remains with the force.
His position in Rotherham started in 2010, the year which the report states the improvements began.
Remember that date, when improvements began. 2010. And read on…
Where then is the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police at the time, who oversaw the police failings in Rotherham? The failures took place from 1997 to 2013, with improvements beginning, as I said, in 2010.
Mike Hedges was Chief Constable from 1998 to 2004. He has at least shown some awareness that he has some responsibility for the force’s performance under his leadership:
Obviously, I’ve been looking back and thinking ‘have I missed anything? Have I fallen asleep on the job?’
“But I’m certain that the issue was never raised as something of high priority, or at all.
Meredydd Hughes was Chief Constable from 2004 until he retired from the police in 2011. What has he been up to since? In 2012, he stood against Shaun Wright for the Labour Party nomination for Police and Crime Commissioner for the area. He was appointed a CBE in 2012. Not much sign of any accountability from that quarter so far.
What of the local Social Services department there? It has been headed by Joyce Thacker since 2008. She has also refused to resign, claiming that the allegations date from before her time in office. Not only did improvements not begin until two years after she took up her office, but now we find that she too was guilty at least of complacency in the face of the problem. As the Telegraph says:
It emerged yesterday she had been personally criticised in an independent report published earlier this week for telling staff to keep a “sense of proportionality” over child sexual exploitation because it only made up 2.3 per cent of her team’s work.
Ms Thacker said that “although it is a very important issue…child neglect is a much more significant problem”. She was not named in the report but the Times newspaper established that it was she who made the comments.
Ms Thacker is claiming that her department has improved under her leadership, and that the failings that led to the abuse scandal are a thing of the past. After she had spent two years overseeing no improvement at all, that is.
Wait a minute. Joyce Thacker… hmmm… sounds familiar. Has she been in the news before?
Ah yes. The UKIP fostering scandal. Her Social Services department removed two children from their foster parents, purely on the grounds that the foster parents belong to UKIP. She said at the time:
“These children are not UK children and we were not aware of the foster parents having strong political views. There are some strong views in the UKIP party and we have to think of the future of the children.”
She added during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I have to look at the children’s cultural and ethnic needs.
“I have legal advice I have to follow for the placement of children and I was criticised before for not making sure their cultural and ethnic needs were met.
“If the party mantra is, for example, ending the active promotion of multiculturalism I have to think about that… I have to think of their longer-term needs.
“I don’t think [UKIP] are a racist party… I think they have very clear immigration and policies and I have to take all those factors into account.”
So the anti-racist paranoia that led to the abuse not being dealt with a decade ago was certainly alive and well in 2008 – and Ms Thacker was defending it robustly. No wonder the improvements did not begin until two years later.
Ms Thacker is paid £130,000 a year for her very senior position as head of social services. Like the others implicated in this major scandal, is so far clinging to her job.
This whole appalling scandal blighted the lives of 1,400 children. And everyone involved seem to have one thing in common: it wasn’t their fault, but someone else’s. Both Social Services and the Police in Rotherham have been brought into severe disrepute by this mess. Local people will not easily trust either of them again. But the people in charge of them seem to think they can carry on as if nothing has happened.
You don’t get paid £130,000 a year for nothing, Ms Thacker. You are paid to take responsibility and accountability for your department. For God’s sake go and go now. And if you won’t go voluntarily, I do hope that Rotherham Council will have you sacked.