Rotherham: No action against council leaders over CSE failings

By Tristan Donovan

| 07 September 2017

No action should be taken against the former leaders of Rotherham children's services despite organisational failings in addressing child sexual exploitation (CSE), an investigation has concluded.

Rotherham Council commissioned a legal firm to review the handling of child sexual exploitation cases by senior staff over a 16-year-period

Law firm Gowling WLG's investigation was one of six independent investigations ordered by the council after the reports by Professor Alexis Jay and Louise Casey identified failings that left an estimated 1,400 children at risk of sexual exploitation.

Gowling WLG examined the conduct of several senior figures who worked at the council from 1997 to 2013, including former directors of children's services and chief executives.

It found evidence of missed opportunities, errors of judgment and a failure to tackle culture issues within the council, but concluded there was "no culpable behaviour which could now justify any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind".

The report considered whether the individuals should face legal action, a review of their pensions or a referral to the Health and Care Professions Council and concluded that no such actions were justified.

"On the evidence available to us we have concluded that the way in which the council responded to CSE in Rotherham was not the responsibility or fault of any one person. It was the product of multiple and systemic failures," the report said.

Another of the investigations examined the handling of 15 CSE cases highlighted in Professor Jay's report. It found evidence of "extremely poor practice" but concluded that action was unwarranted against individual professionals in all but one case.

The remaining case was that of Child E, who was raped by another child while living in a council-run children's home as well as being sexually exploited.

The investigation report said that in Child E's case there was "at least prima facie evidence of significant culpability" by at least two former Rotherham social care professionals and recommended a more detailed review be undertaken.

The council, which no longer operates its own children's homes, commissioned a review of Child E's case that found the failings were indicative of "widespread systemic failure" and so "no one individual alone could be held culpable".

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, who recently resigned from Labour's front bench after claiming the role of race in CSE cases is being ignored due to political correctness, said the lack of action against individual professionals "feels like a completely wasted opportunity to allow the town to move forward".

"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?" she said.

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