Yesterday the BBC reported that Rotherham Council officials had told the House of Commons’ Local Government Committee that vital documentation concerning child sexual exploitation in the town had gone missing and was no longer in the Council’s archive.
The Guardian tells us that the day before the Home Affairs Select Committee was informed about an office burglary in which a researcher’s files into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham were taken. She also claims to have been intimidated into silence by a visit from police officers.
It seems like we should be talking about ‘Rotherhamgate”. All the indications are that there has been serious wrongdoing. Reports that the National Crime Agency will be brought in to investigate are welcome.
Any further inquiries need to look not just at what happened (if that can ever be unearthed), but also at what circumstances caused a culture of fear and a climate of obfuscation to develop in Rotherham.
A cardinal principle for developing safe services is openness about what goes wrong. Often that is absent simply because people are reluctant to admit to their mistakes. In Rotherham, however, it is now beginning to look as if dark forces have conspired to put people in fear of speaking out. If so that is absolutely disgraceful and must not be tolerated in a civilised society.