Rotherham scandal: MPs urge investigation into missing child sex abuse files

Demand comes from follow-up inquiry into Rotherham scandal during which it was found that files of council researcher detailing extent of suffering had been stolen in 2002
Rotherham child abuse scandal
MPs conclude there is ‘compelling evidence’ that Rotherham council and South Yorkshire police ignored numerous warnings about the scale of abuse. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A full and urgent investigation into the disappearance of key child sex abuse files is needed to address public suspicion of a cover-up, the influential Commons home affairs select committee has said.
The MPs’ demand comes from their follow-up inquiry into the response of authorities in Rotherham during which they heard evidence that the files of a council researcher detailing the extent of suffering had been stolen in 2002.
The Commons home affairs committee’s report, published on Saturdaysays this was not the first case wherein there were allegations that files relating to child sex exploitation had disappeared.
“The proliferation of revelations about files which can no longer be located gives rise, whether fairly or not, to public suspicion of a deliberate cover-up.
The only way to address these concerns is with a full, transparent and urgent investigation and the Home Office must do everything in its power to locate any missing files in its possession relating to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other places.”
A Home Office internal inquiry is underway into missing files relating to child abuse allegations raised by the late Geoffrey Dickens, the former MP for Littleborough and Saddleworth. It is also due to look into the case of the Rotherham researcher whose work was funded by the Home Office.
The Commons home affairs committee is to take evidence next Tuesday from Fiona Woolf, who has been appointed by the home secretary, Theresa May, to chair the independent inquiry into wider allegations of historic child abuse.
The MPs also conclude in their report that there is ‘compelling evidence’ that Rotherham council and South Yorkshire police ignored numerous credible warnings about the scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
Their inquiry followed the report published in August by Professor Alexis Jay who estimated that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in the town over a 16-year period.
They say that it is difficult to understand why previous warnings were not taken seriously: “It is even suggested that documentary evidence was stolen in order to suppress it. It is hard to resist the conclusion that, if the council and the police had taken these warnings more seriously, the abusers could have been brought to justice more quickly and some later victims could have been spared their ordeal.”
Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said that Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner and Joyce Thacker, the director of children’s services, both initially refused to accept the committee’s call to step down. He said Wright’s prolonged refusal to go before he did actually resign on September 18 highlighted the fact that there was no way to remove an elected police and crime commissioner.
The home secretary, Theresa May, has said she will look at whether there should be a “recall power” for Pccs similar to that being demanded for MPs in such circumstances. The committee has now published a 35 page draft Pcc recall bill, which specifies how a commissioner who has lost the confidence of their oversight panel of local authorities representing a majority of the population in their area could be recalled.

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