LONDON (Reuters) - A senior police officer in Britain said on Friday he wouldn’t be quitting over a scandal involving the sexual exploitation of at least 1,400 children by men of Pakistani heritage as disturbing new details of the abuse came to light.
The scandal, centred on the northern English town of Rotherham, has made headlines after an independent report exposed the scale and graphic nature of the crimes and raised difficult questions about whether timidity about confronting the racial aspects of the abuse had prompted authorities to turn a blind eye.
In particular, the report criticised local authorities and police for failing to protect the victims, in part because of misplaced racial sensitivities. Some of the victims, mainly white girls in care homes, were as young as 11 and were plied with drugs and alcohol and subjected to gang rapes.
Local media and politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, have called on officials criticised in the report to take responsibility for what happened on their watch - between 1997 and 2013 - and to resign.
But on Friday, Chief Constable David Crompton, the most senior police officer in South Yorkshire, the English county where the abuse occurred, said he had no plans to quit because he took his job in 2012 after most of the crimes had happened.
“The vast majority of the period covered by the report I haven’t been here,” he said, saying the report had recognised that police were starting to get to grips with the problem.
“Clearly I take responsibility in terms of trying to take things forward from here because there are some very serious issues which are raised in the report. However, I think that the main issues ... considerably predate my time in the force.”
Five men were convicted of a string of sexual offences related to the case in 2010, and Crompton said his force had secured 102 prosecutions since the start of last year.
There was a lot more to do, he added, promising he’d look closely at the report to see if it was appropriate to take disciplinary actions against officers mentioned in it.
Shaun Wright, the county’s elected police and crime commissioner, has also faced pressure to resign but has so far ignored it.
Crompton made his statement as a former employee at one of Rotherham’s care homes told BBC TV in an anonymous interview that the abusers sent taxis to pick up their victims “almost every night” and made no attempt to disguise their activities.
Care workers were nervous about intervening for fear of being branded “racist”, he said.
He had confronted some of the abusers himself, he said, only to be threatened that they would have him shot or stabbed.
“Police were called each time a girl went missing, but officers usually only arrived when the child got back to the home, sometimes ‘high on drugs’ or ‘incredibly drunk’,” he said.
“Everything we passed on, nothing seemed to go further in any way shape or form.”
Representatives of the local Asian community strongly condemned the crimes after the report’s release and called for prosecutions.
The founder of Rotherham Muslim Group, Muhbeen Hussain, told BBC News that he accepted that many of the perpetrators were from the Pakistani community, but insisted that there was nothing in the Muslim culture that condoned the abuse.
Editing by Toby Chopra