South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright. Photo: PASouth Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright. Photo: PA

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright is clinging on to his post despite pressure to quit from his own political party following a “devastating” report into child abuse in Rotherham, England.

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

He apologised to victims but insisted he had no knowledge of the “industrial scale” of child abuse when he was a Labour councillor in the South Yorkshire town.

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 in its findings. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down.

“In the light of this report, it is appropriate that South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright should step down.”

The author of the damning 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 that, given the information available to agencies by April 2005, “nobody could say ‘I didn’t know’.”

She said: “Part of my remit was to identify what information was available to key people in positions of influence throughout that time.

“And there was certainly a very great deal of information available from an early stage; indeed from at least 2001, both through a youth project which did outreach work with these young victims and children’s social care.

“But also because there were at least three key reports which were made available to the agencies concerned whose conclusions couldn’t have been clearer.

“Then finally members of the council had seminars organised at which the detail of the youth project and indeed some of the other material... was included in that.

“Names of potential perpetrators, car registration numbers, a very great deal of detail. Really by April 2005, it seemed to me that nobody could say ‘I didn’t know’.”

She said the exploitation covered by the report was “at the worst end of seriousness”.

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

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

I have never encountered such brutality and such abuse

He told Sky News: “Clearly I’m very sorry for any abuse that took place – if I could have prevented it, I would. Any right-minded human being would want to protect vulnerable children, of that I am convinced.

“All I can say is that this is a top priority for South Yorkshire Police and it will remain a top priority for South Yorkshire Police for as long as I am in this role.”

He added: “I take my share of the responsibility, there was systemic failure and I only wish that I knew more at the time – if I knew then what I know now, then clearly more could have done.

“I think I took appropriate actions where that was available.

“I do have regrets that perhaps I was not more aware of the issue at the time where I could have perhaps influenced services better.

“But in the end I regret my role in that systemic failure and I have taken responsibility for that.”

Mr Wright said Prof Jay should have gone further and “named names” in terms of council officials, politicians and police officers who had failed to protect youngsters from abuse.

He added: “What this report demonstrates is that lots of information was not escalated up to political level or indeed senior management level.

“For that I am hugely shocked and hugely sorry.”

Prof Jay's report revealed that although the majority of perpetrators were described as “Asian” by victims, councillors did not engage directly with the Pakistani-heritage community to discuss how to tackle the issue and some staff were nervous about identifying the abusers’ ethnic origins “for fear of being thought racist”.

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