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Wednesday, 06 September 2017

No charges against Rotherham social workers despite widespread systemic failures

Written by Dave Higgens

A new series of reports into the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal have been branded a "completely wasted opportunity" by the town's MP Sarah Champion after they concluded individual senior managers and social workers could not be brought to account.

Six new reports were published by Rotherham Council on Wednesday, commissioned in the wake of the 2014 Jay Report, which laid bare how more than 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and sexually abused in the town between 1997 and 2013.

The author of one of the reviews into the conduct of senior managers associated with Rotherham Council's failings told a meeting in the town he had found that it was "more cock-up than conspiracy" at the local authority.

Lawyer Mark Greenburgh said "there's simply little or anything that Rotherham Council can do" to take action against former senior staff.

Another report, which looked in detail at the cases of 15 individual exploited children, concluded than in all but one: "I have not found any examples of individual casework so poor or dangerous that disciplinary action against individual practitioners would be warranted."

In this report, independent consultant Jean Imray said: "I believe the practice I have reviewed is indicative of widespread systemic failure rather than anything for which individual practitioners can be held to account."

In a statement, Ms Champion said: "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."

The former shadow women and equalities secretary was forced to quit her frontbench role last month after a backlash for saying "Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls".

She said: "How are the survivors meant to rebuild their lives without the closure these reports could have brought?

"How is Rotherham meant to have confidence that this will never happen again unless we know exactly what went wrong?

"This feels like a completely wasted opportunity to allow the town to move forward."

Mr Greenburgh and Ms Imray addressed a special meeting of the council, watched by a number of survivors of abuse in Rotherham.

In his report, Mr Greenburgh said former council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, who is now chief executive of Liverpool City Council, and former head of children and families, Jacqueline Wilson, "each missed opportunities to have changed the outcomes".

He urged the council to refer his report to Mr Fitzgerald and Ms Wilson's current employers but he said: "It is important to be clear that 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."

Mr Greenburgh said that in relation to seven other named senior officers: "Whilst there may have been errors of judgment or missed opportunities as detailed in this report; and a failure in some cases to tackle cultural issues effectively ...... we have found no culpable behaviour which could now justify any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind."

Ms Imray's reports looked in detail at the 15 children identified as examples in Professor Alexis Jay's 2014 report and concluded "there are insufficient grounds to proceed with any action against any individual practitioner or team manager" in 14 of the 15 cases.

Ms Imray, who carried out the report, said: "With the exception of one case (Child E), I have not found any examples of individual casework so poor or dangerous that disciplinary action against individual practitioners would be warranted."

She said: "The failings evident in Child E were of such magnitude that a more detailed, forensic review of that case was warranted.

"There is, in my view, prima facie evidence of significant culpability by at least two social care professionals."

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