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Senior Rotherham officers failed to show 'inquiring minds'

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Senior officers at Rotherham MBC between 1997 and 2013 did not “turn a blind eye’ to child sexual exploitation in the town, but neither did they take sufficient action to address the issue, a new report has found.

However, the council commissioned review found no “culpable behaviour” which would justify “any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind” against seven of the 16 former senior officers whose roles were considered by the review, including former chief executives Martin Kimber and Martin Cuff. There were also no grounds for seeking to review the pensions of those officers who are now retired.

In relation to the other nine officers, the review recommended the current employers of former chief executive Ged Fitzgerald and former head of children and families Jacqueline Wilson, satisfied themselves the individuals had learned lessons but made no specific comments in relation to the others.

The review, published this afternoon, said most of the 16 were aware that CSE was an issue for the council even if they did not recognise its scale.

A report by Alexis Jay found that as many as 1,400 children may have been abused in the town between 1997 and 2013.

Today’s review said there had been “errors of judgement or missed opportunities… and a failure, in some cases to tackle cultural issues effectively”, including from former chief executives Martin Kimber and Martin Cuff. However, it found no-evidence to support allegations of a cover-up and said “no individual officer can or should be held out as solely or principally culpable for the council’s failings”.

“We have not found evidence to support any notion that any individual ‘turned a blind eye’ to CSE in Rotherham,” the report said. “But neither is there much evidence of ‘inquiring minds’ or a purposive approach when evidence of what was happening did come to their attention.”

It also notes that senior officers too often “focused on how (or to whom) information was being presented rather than on the information itself” leading to a number of missed opportunities.

The report finds one of the main problems was that no single officer had responsibility for tackling CSE. It notes that a “number of groups” had been set up during the period under consideration, indicating “an organisation that was endeavouring to get to grips with CSE but was struggling to find an effective way of doing so”.

For this it blamed a culture of misogyny, harassment and bullying along with concerns about the “portrayal” of the race and ethnicity of perpetrators.

The report said: “The culture appears to have persisted despite multiple changes in the senior management team across the relevant period and the evidence suggests it was also attributable, in part, to a culture amongst members which was not tackled adequately.”

 

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