Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham child sexual abuse: 'No-one's fault at council'

Rotherham Town Hall Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rotherham Council commissioned six reports in the wake of Prof Alexis Jay's findings

No legal or disciplinary proceedings should be brought against any current or former senior officers at Rotherham Council over its handling of child sexual exploitation, a report has said.

The failure to tackle the problem was "not the fault of any one person" but was the result of "multiple and systemic failures", the report found.

Its author Mark Greenburgh said it was "more cock-up than conspiracy".

More than 1,400 children were sexually abused in the town from 1997 to 2013.

Six reports have been published by the council in response to the Jay Report's findings.

The independent investigations, carried out by solicitors Gowling WLG, covered areas including the performance of senior employees, taxi licensing in the town and reviews of how individual cases were handled.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion has described the reports as a "wasted opportunity to allow the town to move forward" while survivor Sammy Woodhouse, who has waived her right to anonymity, said: "I want people held accountable and it just feels like it's never going to happen."

'Systemic failures'

On the response of senior officers the report said: "On the evidence available to us we have concluded that the way in which the council responded to CSE in Rotherham was not the responsibility or fault of any one person.

"It was the product of multiple and systemic failures.

"But there were key moments when a substantially different history may have occurred if individual judgements and responses had been better."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The report found "no culpable behaviour" to justify action against senior former employees including Martin Kimber

Regarding ex-officers, including former chief executive Martin Kimber and former head of children's services Joyce Thacker, the report said it had found "no culpable behaviour" to justify any legal action or regulatory involvement.

On current employees it said: "We have not identified that disciplinary and/or capability proceedings are warranted in respect of any senior manager currently in post at the council."

However it urged the current employers of an number of former staff including Ged Fitzgerald, chief executive from 2000-2003, and Jacqueline Wilson, head of children and families within social services from 2000 to 2004, to read the report into their handling of events.

It said: "We have not found that either of these people were uniquely culpable for the council's response to emerging evidence of CSE.

"But there are points at which each missed opportunities to have changed the outcomes."

The report concluded by saying Rotherham Council is "not the same institution it once was" adding: "Whilst the present day managers should look to see how the lessons learned are implemented, in our view it is vital that the council should continue to look forward."

'Wasted opportunity'

Rotherham's MP said in a statement: "I had hoped that today's publication of the reports into Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) preventing child sexual exploitation would draw a line under the catalogue of errors that led to our children being let down so badly by those supposed to protect them.

"However, despite these huge failures, leading to at least 1,400 victims being let down, it appears that no individual at RMBC has yet been held to account for their role."

Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council said: "Today marks another step in our journey but nothing alters the fact that so many children were let down and that so many abusers have walked free in our town for too long.

"As a councillor, as a member of the Labour Party and as a citizen of Rotherham I'm still deeply sorry for what went wrong.

"We can't change the past, and God knows I wish we could, but I hope these reports help to give some solace and help to prevent further suffering in the future."

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