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24.09.14

Rotherham official must explain discrepancy in testimony – MPs

The former director of children’s services at Rotherham, Joyce Thacker, has been asked by MPs for a “full explanation” as to why she omitted key information when giving evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

The Times has reported that Thacker did not tell the committee that she prevented the ethnicity of the men suspected of abusing children from being released, in order to promote "community cohesion".

The evidence concerns the case of Laura Wilson, a 17-year-old mother who was stabbed to death in 2011 by two Asian men, one of whom was her baby’s father. She had been groomed for sex by various Asian men since she was 12.

Before her death Wilson was monitored by Rotherham children’s services, but despite requests from her family, the council refused to intervene in her case, carrying out what it termed ‘preventative’ work only.

In 2012, the Rotherham safeguarding children board was forced by the government to publish a report into the care agencies’ dealings with Wilson; however the council only submitted a heavily redacted version of the report, leaving out information about the men of Pakistani origin who were suspected of grooming Wilson.

Thacker told the Home Affairs Committee: “My only ever intention with [Laura’s] serious case review was to protect her remaining family.”

However the minutes of a safeguarding board meeting in December 2011 show that the board’s decision on whether not to publish the report would be determined not only by discussions with her family and a desire to protect their welfare, but also by the potential “community cohesion impact”.

Rotherham council then attempted to obtain a High Court injunction to prevent The Times from revealing full details from the report. The attempt failed and the full report was published. It showed that information that was redacted from the original report includes:

  • The fact that Laura “was mentioned” during a 2009 police inquiry that led to the conviction of five men of Pakistani origin for sex offences against girls.
  • Her mother's recollection that Laura “had always said that what [another girl] was doing was wrong and that she would never mess around with Asian men”.
  • The fact that when she was 13, Laura and a friend “were given alcohol by men at a local takeaway and were asked what they were going to give them in return”. Her mother “immediately notified the police”.

The redacted report had also stated that when Laura was ten years old "one of her siblings is thought to have become involved in sexual exploitation"; the uncensored version revealed that this was "with particular reference to Asian men being involved".

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said: "We will be writing to Ms Thacker to ask for a full explanation."

The request for an explanation comes at the same time as Thacker’s final report to Rotherham Council reveals the town’s continuing struggle with child sexual exploitation.

The update sent to the council’s cabinet today said there are currently 47 open cases being dealt with by the social care child sexual exploitation team. This has fallen from 69 in March 2013 and 51 in March this year.

PSE reported that Thacker left her role as head of children’s services on Friday, after she had initially resisted repeated calls for her to step down.

She had been due to present the report to councillors.

(Image: c. Dave Higgens/PA Wire)

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