Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Ex Rotherham police chief 'failed' abuse victims

Meredydd Hughes
Image caption Meredydd Hughes was chief constable of South Yorkshire Police from 2004-11

The former chief constable of South Yorkshire Police has told MPs he "singularly failed" victims of child abuse in Rotherham.

Meredydd Hughes was questioned by the Home Affairs Select Committee about how authorities dealt with child sexual exploitation in the town.

A report found at least 1,400 children were abused from 1997-2013.

The committee will also question police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright, who has resisted calls to resign.

Mr Hughes, who was chief constable from 2004-11, said he had "no understanding of the scale and scope of what was going on in Rotherham".

Evidence 'totally unconvincing'

"This is not something I would have given a blind eye to, nor something I would have wilfully ignored," he told committee chairman Keith Vaz.

During terse exchanges, Mr Vaz said: "The committee doesn't accept that you didn't know anything about child grooming in your area."

He said the former chief constable's claims of ignorance were "impossible to believe".

Mr Hughes said to the "best of his memory" he had not seen three of the four reports that highlighted the problem of child grooming in Rotherham during the period he was chief constable.

He told the committee: "This is a hideous crime, I am deeply embarrassed, I can say with honesty I had no idea of the scale and scope of this."

Mr Vaz told Mr Hughes: "We find your evidence totally unconvincing.

"Your contrition today I think is welcome but I think it needs to go much further".

Image caption Keith Vaz said he found it "impossible to believe" Meredydd Hughes did not know about grooming in Rotherham

Professor Alexis Jay's report outlined how children had been subjected to trafficking, rape and other sexual exploitation over a 16-year period and how their abuse had been ignored by a range of agencies, including police, councillors and council officials.

The current chief constable, David Crompton, was asked what he would do to ensure the 25 new victims of child sexual exploitation identified since the report was published would have their perpetrators brought to justice.

Mr Crompton said he could say "with absolute conviction" his officers were "clear on how serious an issue this is".

He added: "I've accepted the contents of the Jay report. Things are better now than they were in the past".

The chief constable also told the committee that an incident where a 13-year-old girl was arrested for being drunk and disorderly when she was found with a group of men was going to be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Rotherham Council's current head of children's services, Joyce Thacker, also appeared before the committee and told them she had no intention of resigning her post.

'Resign or step down'

Ms Thacker said: "I have known there was a huge problem of child sex exploitation, incredibly difficult to get this heard.

"We knew about child sex exploitation but not the scale of it. I don't accept dereliction of duty, but I could have done more."

She also said police did not appear to take the issue seriously.

Mr Vaz said he found Ms Thacker's evidence to the committee to be "unimpressive" and she should either resign or be asked to step down.

Ms Thacker said she had made her position clear.

The chief executive of Rotherham Council Martin Kimber told the committee he felt "terribly sorry" for the victims and their families.

Mr Kimber, who has announced he will step down from his £160,000 a year role in December, was asked why no-one at the council had been dismissed or asked to stand down.

He said he wanted to do things "properly".

Mr Wright, who was a Labour councillor in Rotherham and former cabinet member for children, is expected to give evidence to the committee later.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites