Chris Longley clarifies his position

From Chris Longley MBE

Dear Rothpol and all the other people who have commented
Note to Rothpol: this is modified version of an earlier blog in the light of very recent events.

Thank you for your comments on these grave issues. I share your disquiet, but if the propre outcomes are to be achieved there are necessary cautions.

I have never called for any Rotherham MBC employee to be disciplined, let alone sacked or forced into retirement etc. Nor will I do so and for good reasons.

Nor have I suggested to any political body that they should instigate disciplinary proceedings against any of their elected members, whether of Rotherham MBC or against others such as the Police and Crime Commissioner.

I have, however, strongly suggested that investigations should take place to establish what the facts are about who knew what, when they knew it and what they then did or did not do. Let me set out why.

There has to be proof of actions or inactions by such people in power that can be proven and therefore be taken lawfully as the basis for such disciplinary actions. As I write this entry to the Rothpol blog, Rotherham MBC have not made available in the public domain any such proof or evidence. Yet.

I still await their response to my FOI request, for which the due “20 day response” is actually today. I am told on the telephone today that the work on their reply to me is under way

Some may say that this approach is offering a process of fairness denied to all the young girls who were so gravely assaulted, raped and trafficked over at least half a decade.

But bad practices and bad judgements in one area of the justice system can never provide the excuse for the summary use elsewhere of arbitrary disciplinary practices that would be just as badly based. Successful appeals by those affected would be virtually guaranteed.

So it may take time, but I have lots of time and patience (and so do many others!).

We will unearth what these people knew, when they knew it and what they did or did not do. And if there is no self-started Judicial Inquiry in Rotherham into these dreadful matters, there will be one imposed on Rotherham some day. For sure.

Let us hope the apparently emerging local consensus not only keeps its respect for due process but also holds together to force the independent Judicial Inquiry that will I am sure be needed ultimately if we are to learn the full truth.

I just hope it does not take 23 years.

Kind regards

Chris

Chris Longley MBE

11 thoughts on “Chris Longley clarifies his position

  1. Chris, I am grateful to you for your dogged methodical approach to the subject. I would entirely agree with you that accountability requires disclosure and your approach should ultimately be rewarded in that respect.

    There are however, two lines of accountability, firstly the politicians supervise and hold accountable the employees/officers. Whilst Rothpol may be critical on occasion, of the performance of said employees/officers, we don’t hold them to account. The second line of accountability, political, works somewhat differently. This is where Rothpol comes in, we hold the politicians to account, wherever they conduct ‘the peoples business’.

    The traditional response to mega-failure such as witnessed here is for those who failed in their duty of service and leadership, is resignation! I will, for the moment, leave their identification to others.

    The Labour Party must bear a heavy responsibility for Rotherham’s failure to deal with the problem of child exploitation, rape and trafficking in Rotherham. It must deal with it’s own ‘dirty washing’, or lose the confidence of the Rotherham electorate, remember Rawmarsh!

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    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Rothpol

      As always, thank you for giving me a public space for the contribution I am trying to make to the resolution of these sad matters, and the shedding of light onto the actions of those who held responsibilities whilst these events were in train over more than half a decade.

      I have said from the very beginning of my interest in how these matters were conducted that I am of no political party and that I never will be. The neutrality of that stance is what underpins the efforts that I am making and I cannot change it.

      As far as the treatment of paid officials is concerned I am grateful for your agreement that they are always entitled to due process in disciplinary matters and that such disciplinary matters must be evidence based.

      As far as the political leadership is concerned, in my view they too are entitled to the benefit of due disciplinary process based on evidence if they are to be dealt with by their own party or by their own elected body. Rotherham MBC (RMBC) have access to all the records of the Rotherham Safeguarding Childrens Board that the Home Affairs Commitee described (in terms) as disfunctional. Those within RMBC responsible for the scrutiny of that Board should have no problem in holding current and past members of that Board to account, including the now Police and Crime Commissioner. But that is a task for them to address.

      I cannot comment on the views the Electorate may express at the Ballot Box on any of the individuals involved and I am sure that no-one reading this blog would expect me to.

      In the meanwhile I pursue the agendas minutes and reports of the Rotherham Safeguarding Childrens Board for their meetings between 2006 and 2010 to establish the timeline of who knew what, when did they know it and what did they decide (or fail to decide) to do.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

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      • Mr Longley, you are to be commended for the way that you are pursuing the truth in these matters. As you state above, the people who were responsible for scrutinising the work of people like Mr Wright et al also have questions to answer. I was informed of the woeful attendance records of councillors who were charged with ensuring that the Children’s Services be held accountable. Just a browse through the council’s own records prove this to be true. Take for example this meeting held just weeks after the damning OFSTED report of Aug 2009 of the Looked After Children Scrutiny Sub-Panel (arguably the most vulnerable children) less than half attended this meeting.
        http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/mgMeetingAttendance.aspx?ID=7390
        Scrolling through the links to other meetings of both this sub commitee and the actual scrutiny panel for the Children’s Services prove equally worrying. Is it no wonder things went unchallenged?

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  2. Chris, I along with rothpol have a form of admiration for you dogged determination and for the fact that you obviously care.. However a few points;

    Your dogged determination and sense of process has not actually achieved anything. Indeed, the failure of the Council to respond to an acceptable timetable should be telling you something.

    There is no court of competence or due disciplinary process for politicians save for elections and the fear of elections. Hence appeals to the LP to clean out their Rotherham stables.

    The Committee report made it clear that these delays and obfuscations are not without victims. As you ponder, real children are the real victims of sex abuse. Tonight, tomorrow and the next nights. As we write there are children out there feeling scared and alone.

    Anger and protest are called for when the people of reason like yourself are ignored.

    In the kindest way, has no one ever told you that your a bit of a ditherer and pedant?

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    • From Chris Longley MBE

      UPDATE: It is now DAY 22 of my FOI Request to RMBC for the release of the agendas minutes and reports of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children’s Board between 2006 and 2010 , So the clock is at PLUS2 and it is ticking.

      Dear Will Ewart

      Thank you for the comments you make in support of what I’m trying to do.

      For the record I’ve been called pedantic many times so I plead “guilty as charged”! But in this case it’s pedantry in pursuit of a cause in which I believe deeply.

      I know for certain that I would get nowhere in securing the release of the agendas minutes and reports of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children’s Board with a solitary placard and a lonely vigil in front of some benighted Council Offices.

      But to being “a ditherer” I plead “not guilty M’Lud”. There is nothing indecisive about pursuing a publicly funded Council to secure the release of agendas minutes and reports about matters of such great importance in the damaged lives of so many children and young people, and which the Council concerned has up to now is with-held from the public domain.

      Those papers will be released eventually come-what-may so the public will see the timeline of who knew what, when they knew it and what they did on the basis of that information.

      When that evidence is in the public domain, it becomes a new situation altogether. Because with all that evidence will come accountability, and with accountability will come responsibility that cannot then be evaded.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

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  3. From Chris Longley MBE

    Letter to The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, and all the other Members of the Home Affairs Committee, dated today

    From Chris Longley MBE

    “12 June 2013

    The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair
    and Members of the Home Affairs Select Committee
    House of Commons, London SW1 0AA

    Dear Chair and Members of the Committee

    I have just read your Committees’ excellent 2nd Report – Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming – Volume II.

    I and many others who wish to see these atrocious crimes against innocence banished from our country will be very grateful to you when we see your recommendations translated into actions. You have stimulated much constructive action:

    The announcement by the DPP, Kier Starmer, of altered arrangements about the collection and recording of evidence and the making of testimony from child victims is a welcome adjunct.
    That the College of Policing is embracing a similar approach to improving the care that all our police should give these child victims is also welcome.
    The views of the Judiciary on the future improved care and treatment in Court of these child victims of sexual exploitation will be awaited by many with similar interest.

    However, it remains a matter of considerable public concern that your Committee, with all its powers, is still placed as follows:

    No written evidence has yet been received by your Committee from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) despite your Chair’s public instructions in your Committee to two RMBC officers (Kimber/Thacker) in January of this year to provide your Committee with the RMBC reports that you required on these matters. The letter you list as received from Mr Kimber towards the very end of your evidence taking period sheds no light on the conduct of his Authority whatsoever.

    Since the oral sessions were suspended your Committee did not have the benefit of the oral evidence of Councillor Wright, the senior Elected Member of RMBC who was in charge of the safeguarding of children for five years during which there is evidence in the public domain that systemic child abuse and the rape of many children took place by organised gangs of local men in that Borough.

    Councillor Wright is now the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire and he has the responsibility for the safety of all children across the entire County. A substantial part of the letter from Councillor Wright listed in your evidence, and also received towards the very end of your Committee’s evidence taking period, is the same as a substantial part of the letter from Mr Kimber.

    So your Committee still does not have the Reports you yourself instructed RMBC officers to provide, and which would have given you a written time-line of advice giving and decision taking that would give context to Councillor Wright’s evidence before you – if he had actually given it.

    So I wonder again “at what point did the RMBC officers cross the invisible line into contempt of parliament by their failure to comply with your Committee’s requirements as expressed by you”, Chair, personally in open oral evidence session?

    Taking a wider view, I fear that the absence of these crucial strands of evidence renders your Committee’s reporting into these issues of systemic child abuse and rape in Rotherham incomplete, and lacking vital components. You will know only some of what happened to the victims and about those criminals who did these hideous crimes against innocence, but you will also have no institutional backcloth against which to see how they got away with it for so long.

    It will allow the blurring of responsibility to continue, and many people will share my disappointment at this strangely inexplicable turn of events. So I hope your Committee will pause for a moment, think again and pursue these Rotherham matters fully.

    After all, you also promised you’d interview Councillor Wright and that is on the record in a public oral evidence session too. It was Andrew Norfolk of The Times to whom you made that promise and I am copying him into this letter.

    I did hear the excellent interview that you, Chair, kindly gave to Radio Sheffield on the morning of the publication of your Report. But your responses to your interviewer made all too clear the limitations on what you could actually say about the terrible events in Rotherham because of the absence of the evidence you yourself had requested from Mr Kimber and Ms Thacker.

    The absence of any oral evidence from Ex-Councillor Wright must have served to compound those limitations. I am so very sorry that you were placed in such a visibly invidious position.

    Kind regards

    Chris Longley MBE

    ccfi Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Reporter of The Times”

    LETTER TO THE RT HON KEITH VAZ MP ENDS

    PS Sorry if this is a bit pedantic …

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  4. Why is the Rotherham advertiser so silent these days?

    They shud be holding the council to account not be complicit in covering stuff up.

    Mr editor
    Journalistic code and impartiality??

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  5. From Chris Longley MBE

    DAY 26 OF MY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST. TO RMBC

    The promised telephone call from the Head of the RMBC “Information Governance Team” has not materialised yet.

    Just so you know …

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  6. From Chris Longley MBE

    DAY 29 OF MY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST. TO RMBC

    The promised telephone call from the Head of the RMBC “Information Governance Team” has not materialised yet. Nor have any of the agendas minutes and reports that I requested.

    If I have heard nothing from RMBC by friday (Day 33 of my FOI Request) I will report RMBC to the Information Commissioner.

    Just so you know …

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

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  7. Day 30 of my FOI Request to RMBC and the refusal has arrived. Here is the full text:

    RMBC letter reads thus:

    “Dear Mr Longley,

    I refer to your recent request for information regarding all the agendas, minutes and reports of all Meetings of the Rotherham Children’s Safeguarding Board from May 1 2005 to May 31 2010, any reports about major interventions by Rotherham MBC in the matter of child safeguarding and reviews by Rotherham MBC of safeguarding children in Rotherham that fall within or refer to the period May 1 2005 to May 31 2010 and the preceding five years.

    From 2009 to date, minutes and reports are available on the Safeguarding Board website on the link below:

    http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/safeguarding/

    Where information is not available on the website, the information has been archived and it has been estimated that retrieval of all the information requested would exceed the cost limit as detailed in the Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2004. It would take in excess of 18 hours to retrieve the information as there are numerous reports for each meeting or review.

    If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to an internal review by the Council. Please contact us via the above email address or by post to Sarah Corbett, Information Governance Manager, Legal Services, Riverside House, Main Street, Rotherham, S60 1AE.

    If you are not satisfied with the internal review, you can appeal to the Information Commissioner. Contact details are: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire. SK9 5AF. Telephone 01625 545700. Alternatively go to http://www.ico.gov.uk/

    Yours sincerely,

    Sarah Corbett
    Information Governance Manager
    Information Governance Unit
    Legal Services
    Resources Directorate
    Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council”

    RMBC letter ends

    My reply to RMBC reads as follows:

    “Sarah Corbett
    Information Governance Manager
    Information Governance Unit
    Legal Services
    Resources Directorate
    Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

    Dear Mrs/Ms Corbett

    Thank you for your reply thirty days after I first contacted the Council.

    I am disappointed that it took you thirty days to discover the circumstances that you set out in your letter to me.

    Your reply is wholly unacceptable to me, but I am sure that will not be a surprise.

    I am unsure of what “an internal review by the Council” would entail, but the words seem very much like “you will be marking your own homework” to me and that is not an acceptable position either.

    So I therefore repeat my request for, now, the immediate release to me of all the agendas minutes and reports about major interventions by Rotherham MBC in the matter of child safeguarding and reviews by Rotherham MBC of safeguarding children in Rotherham that fall within or refer to the period May 1 2005 to May 31 2010 and the preceding five years.

    So please accede to this request. Because I am still prepared to cut you a little slack, I will accept their arrival within the next ten working days.

    Since digital archives are as easy to access as a current file there should be no difficulty in gaining the necessary access.

    If I do not receive all these agendas minutes and reports within the ten working days from today that I have stipulated, I will immediately refer the Council to the Information Commissioner without further reference to you.

    In this unhappy eventuality – that RMBC continue to refuse to provide this information – I will also copy any such refusal by yourselves to the Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee and to every Honorable Member of that Committee.

    Regards

    Chris Longley MBE”

    Chris Longley letter ENDS.

    I will keep readers informed on what now happens.

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  8. From Chris Longley MBE

    Dear Rothpol and everyone who is giving their support

    Excellent news that the new Rothpol computer has arrived. Could Rothpol now arrange the somewhat delayed contact with Gillian Radcliffe please? Most kind because her help would be timely and very gratefully accepted.

    PROGRESS ON THE FOI:

    I understand from Sarah Corbett at RMBC (Head of the Information Governance Team) when she called yesterday that most of the first batch of documents has been assembled. It is likely that some will be photocopies of originals that were not stored digitally, whilst some will be digital files.

    We confirmed that the 2005/6 to 2009/10 series would be dealt with first, and that the 2002/3 to 2004/5 series would follow since more of them were paper originals that would need to be photocopied.

    From the scoping exercise so far, it looks as though I will collect the documents (of all kinds) from RMBC in the week beginning the 15th July. This is because the total set will be too big to email as attachments and, as I’ve also said above, there will be photocopies of some documents.

    I have said that I am content to collect just 2005/6 to 2009/10 tseries at my first visist to RMBC – to be going on with – if that helps to spread out the RMBC workload,

    I will keep you all posted.

    KInd regards to all

    Chris

    From Chris Longley MBE

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