A corrupt police officer and two councillors have been accused of having sex with victims of one of Britain’s worst child abuse scandals.
The claims relate to politicians and a constable in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, where an estimated 1,400 girls were subjected to serious sexual offences over 16 years.
The explosive allegations are revealed by The Times on the day that long-awaited findings from an independent inspection of the local authority are due to be published. The report is expected to make damning criticism of the council, which risks being stripped of its powers.
Complaints against the two Rotherham councillors are understood to have been sent to the National Crime Agency, which is investigating child-sex crimes in the town. One of the councillors is still serving.
Allegations against the police officer, who is also said to have regularly passed information to abusers targeting vulnerable children for sex, have separately been referred to the police watchdog by the South Yorkshire force.
A second officer is accused of neglect in his duty because he allegedly failed to take appropriate action after receiving intelligence about his colleague’s conduct. The claims are being assessed by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
In 2012, when The Times published confidential documents revealing that police officers and council officials had known for at least a decade that girls in Rotherham were being groomed, pimped and trafficked by men with virtual impunity, the local authority’s response was to demand a criminal inquiry into the leaking of the documents.
The council threatened High Court action to block another story and also hired a firm of solicitors to expose the “security breach”.
The town gained international notoriety last year when an inquiry by Alexis Jay found that hundreds of girls, some as young as 11, suffered “appalling levels of crime and abuse” from 1997 to 2013. Children were said to have been abducted, trafficked to other towns, beaten, threatened and in some cases forced to witness rapes. The men involved were “almost all” of Pakistani origin.
Senior police officers and council officials were said to have known of the abuse yet chose to “disbelieve, suppress or ignore” evidence of multiple crimes.
In the public outcry that came after the Jay report, Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, ordered an independent inspection of Rotherham council that was led by Louise Casey, the director-general of the government’s troubled families programme. Ms Casey’s report is likely to be presented to MPs this morning. Sources in the town expect that it is likely to be scathing in its verdict on the council’s overall performance and provision of safeguarding services to children and young people.
If the authority is found to be failing to discharge its duties to an acceptable level, Mr Pickles has the power to order some form of government intervention. Last year he sent in three commissioners to oversee the London borough of Tower Hamlets. A similar measure was taken in 2010 after serious failings were identified in Doncaster, Rotherham’s neighbouring authority.
The criticisms in the Jay report, published last August, led to the resignations of the council leader, Roger Stone, its chief executive, Martin Kimber, the director of children’s services, Joyce Thacker, and the South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright.
It also triggered an inquiry by the Commons home affairs committee, which heard of claims from a charity worker that a police officer was on the payroll of groups of men who groomed and sexually abused children in Rotherham. It was claimed that the rogue officer undermined efforts to protect girls by sharing confidential information with sex criminals of Pakistani origin.