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Review finds 'widespread systemic failure' but no conspiracy over Rotherham child sex abuse scandal

Credit: PA

A new review of Rotherham Council's conduct over the child sexual exploitation scandal has found it was "more cock-up than conspiracy".

Six new reports into various aspects of the scandal were published today.

They concluded that there was "widespread systemic failure rather than anything for which individual practitioners can be held to account".

It was also revealed that senior former officials, including former council leader Roger Stone and Shaun Wright, the former head of children's services, refused to take part in the review.

Mark Greenburgh, the author of one report, said there was "simply little or anything that Rotherham Council can do" to take action against former senior staff.

The six reports were commissioned by the council in the wake of the Jay Report, which laid bare how at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and sexually exploited in the town between 1997 and 2013 by gangs of men of largely Pakistani heritage.

Mr Greenburgh said in relation to seven named senior officers that "whilst there may have been errors of judgement 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."

In relation to former council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald, who is now chief executive of Liverpool City Council, his report said "we recommend that the council refers this report and its findings to the current employer of Mr Fitzgerald and (former head of children and families) Ms (Jacqueline) Wilson."

Another of the new 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.

Independent consultant Jean 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.

"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.

"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."

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the review was a "missed opportunity".

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."