Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Rotherham abuse: 'No confidence' in PCC Shaun Wright

Shaun Wright Image copyright Rotherham Borough Council
Image caption Shaun Wright was elected as police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire in 2012

A vote of no confidence in South Yorkshire police commissioner Shaun Wright has been passed by the county's police and crime panel.

Mr Wright was appearing before the panel for the first time since a report revealed 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham from 1997-2013.

During the meeting he faced angry calls from members of the public to resign.

However, Mr Wright said he "genuinely believed" his continuation in the role was in the "best interest" of victims.

Mr Wright, who was elected as the county's police and crime commissioner (PCC) in 2012, was in charge of children's services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010.

Panel chairman Harry Harpham said he would write to the home secretary to endorse the Home Affairs Committee's call for legislation to change the law on PCCs so they can be sacked in "exceptional circumstances".

Mr Wright left the meeting before the vote was passed.

Following the vote, one panel member, UKIP's Caven Vines, said he was resigning from the committee.

Meanwhile, the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was assessing a referral from South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Panel relating to Mr Wright.

'You were a disgrace'

A spokesman said: "The referral stems from two complaints about Mr Wright's role at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and his knowledge of child sexual exploitation allegations.

"The IPCC can investigate police and crime commissioners if there is evidence that they may have committed a criminal offence, either while in office or prior to them becoming police and crime commissioners."

Suspending a police and crime commissioner

Under the legislation that created the roles in 2012, a PCC can only be suspended if:

(a) the commissioner has been charged in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man with an offence, and

(b) the offence is one which carries a maximum term of imprisonment exceeding two years

Among those to call for his resignation were two victims of child sexual abuse.

One woman, who said she had been abused as a child, said: "I've had to live with this for 12 years and what have you done?

"You've still got your job. You should stand down."

Another member of the public asked: "Does anybody in this room still have confidence in Shaun Wright apart from Mr Wright?"

A third person said his 12-year-old granddaughter was arrested for being drunk and disorderly by police officers who let her four adult abusers go free.

The man said: "You were a disgrace, mate. If I had a gun I would shoot you."

Mr Wright responded, saying: "Clearly, if that took place, it's an absolute disgrace."

Image copyright Rotherham Borough Council
Image caption Shaun Wright faced angry calls for him to resign during the meeting

Responding to calls for him to stand down, Mr Wright said: "I've always acted in the best interests of young people and I've always addressed the inadequacies within South Yorkshire Police since I took up the role as police and crime commissioner.

"I've already set a plan in place over the last two years to address this and significant improvements have been made and I wish to continue to see that programme through over the coming months.

"I have huge regrets that I was not more aware of the sheer scale of the issue and I reiterate my apology for any part I played in the systematic failings."

He later told Mr Harpham: "Stepping aside would have been, to my mind, the easiest way to deal with this.

"I'm prepared to take the criticism, be held to account - as I have been in many forums in the last two weeks - and the only way to tackle the issue is to focus on what's been put forward in the [Professor Alexis] Jay Report.

"My record as police and crime commissioner in tackling child sexual exploitation speaks for itself and I genuinely believe that my continuation in the role is in the best interests of past, present and potential future victims of this heinous crime."

The Conservative chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Nick Alston, has added his voice to the calls for Mr Wright to step down, describing his position as "untenable".

"If I was in Shaun Wright's shoes, of course I would resign, because we need to think about the victims," he told the BBC.

"It's the victims of crime that we're here to serve. And those victims must have confidence in us, the public must have trust in us if we're going to do our jobs."

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