South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright quits Labour but not PCC role
Ex-councillor for children’s services in Rotherham says he will not quit as police commissioner in wake of damning report.
The police commissioner accused of failing to act on warnings of widespread sexual abuse of children while he was a senior councillor in Rotherham has resigned from the Labour party but has refused to leave his current post.
Shaun Wright has faced calls from the home secretary, Theresa May, and his own party to resign as South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner over the scandal, with Labour threatening him with suspension from the party on Thursday morning if he did not step down.
But Wright, who was responsible for children and young people’s services at Rotherham council from 2005 to 2010, struck first, resigning from the party late on Wednesday night.
In a statement, he said he took full responsibility for his part in “the collective failures which took place” and had already done so when he resigned from the council in 2010.
But he insisted that he has “taken that experience to deliver a major transformation in the way South Yorkshire police deals with horrific crimes such as child sexual exploitation”.
Speaking after the announcement, the shadow policing minister, Jack Dromey, insisted that Wright should stand down from his post as police commissioner.
He said: “Our first priority must be to support the victims of shameful abuse and to ensure that those who abused them are brought before the courts. Those in authority who failed to use their power to defend the powerless must be called to account.
“Shaun Wright must resign from his position because the people of South Yorkshire have lost confidence in him. Victims will simply not understand if he clings on to office.”
A damning report published this week found that more than 1,400 children in Rotherham were made victims of child sexual abuse between 1997 and 2013. It said that Wright, in his former post, received three separate warnings but did not act upon them.
Rotherham council’s leader, Roger Stone, resigned on Tuesday but Wright has refused to go.
Prior to the announcement that Wright was leaving the party, Dromey said: “We in the Labour party will act but the problem with the legislation introduced by Theresa May is there is no mechanism to force him to stand down.”
Dromey added: “That raises questions for the future but in the here and now we are absolutely clear he has to accept responsibility for his abject failure to defend those who were being abused by evil men.”
And he said that there needed to be an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission to ensure South Yorkshire police and its officers were properly held to account.
Dromey’s intervention came at the end of a day in which the home secretary, Theresa May, appeared to back calls from Labour that Wright had to quit.
She said: “Shaun Wright obviously has had involvement in this, both as his role as a councillor and obviously he’s now the police and crime commissioner.
“It’s not my job as home secretary to hire and fire police and crime commissioners. The whole point of them is that they are elected by the people, so ultimately it is a choice for the electorate.
“But I believe his own party have called for him to resign. I believe he has real questions to answer and I think in the circumstances he should heed those calls.”
But, in his statement, Wright said he remained committed to his role as PCC and intended to keep it.
He said he had a 20-year record in public service and said it was with “deep regret” that he had decided to leave the Labour party. He will continue in his post as an independent.
He said: “As a father, and a citizen of South Yorkshire, my thoughts are with the victims and their families and I reiterate my apology to them and take full responsibility for my part in the collective failures which took place at Rotherham council during the time I was in office and indeed to that end I resigned in 2010.”
But he said he stood by his earlier comments and insisted that “much progress has been made” since he was elected as commissioner.
Full text of Shaun Wright’s statement
I formally tender my resignation from the Labour party. However, I remain committed to, and intend to remain in, my role as an Independent police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire.
I entered into public service over twenty years ago to make a positive difference. Protecting vulnerable people has been my number one priority as police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire. I have had to make the difficult decision to stand down from the Labour party and it’s with deep regret that I’ve come to that decision.
I’ve dedicated my career and life to serving the public of South Yorkshire. As a father, and a citizen of South Yorkshire, my thoughts are with the victims and their families and I reiterate my apology to them and take full responsibility for my part in the collective failures which took place at Rotherham council during the time I was in office and indeed to that end I resigned in 2010.
I stand by my earlier comments that I’ve taken that experience to deliver a major transformation in the way South Yorkshire police deals with horrific crimes such as child sexual exploitation, and much progress has been made since I was elected as commissioner in terms of supporting victims, taking preventive action, increasing awareness of the issue and bringing criminals to justice. I was elected to deliver the people’s policing and crime priorities in South Yorkshire and I intend to see that duty through by leading the force on that urgent, and fundamental, journey of improvement for the sake of past, present and potential victims, who are the most important people in all of this.