Chris Longley writes to Keith Vaz

From Chris Longley MBE

19 September 2013

The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP
Chair
Home Affairs Select Committee
House of Commons
London SW1 OAA

Dear Mr Vaz

I have today received documents that inform me that Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council has belatedly decided to establish an Inquiry into the systemic child rape, trafficking and abuse that took place within its boundaries over an extended period of years.

Whilst an Inquiry is welcome in principle, having read the Terms of Reference I am struck that the Inquiry will have no powers to compel anyone other than current Council employees to give evidence before it. Paragraph 4 of the Terms of Reference is very clear about this.

This means for example that the now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, Ex Rotherham Councillor Shaun Wright, cannot be compelled to give evidence on the public record at the Inquiry. Nor will any of those who have previously held elected office or have been paid employees but have now left, regardless of the roles they held in these appalling matters, be compelled to testify.

This is such a fundamental flaw in the Terms of Reference that it makes any such Inquiry without point.

I am therefore writing to ask you and your Committee to recommend to the Home Secretary that she should establish without delay a full Judicial Inquiry in Rotherham about these grave matters with powers to compel witnesses to attend and to testify.

Only a Judicial Inquiry that has the necessary full and unfettered powers of access to all potential witnesses regardless of their part in these grave matters will be able to establish anything approaching the full truth of how these grave events were allowed to continue for so long and to damage so many innocent lives.

Kind regards

Chris Longley MBE

Encs: Copies of the Terms of Reference of the Rotherham MBC Inquiry and another related document (Note to Rothpol: these are the documents that you very kindly posted)

10 thoughts on “Chris Longley writes to Keith Vaz

  1. Chris
    Many thanks for your comments into the grooming investigation and letter to Keith.
    I fully concur with your feelings.

    To gain public confidence.
    All the facts must be exposed over these heinous events and people brought to account irrespective of their background or position.

    We can not afford any suspician of another cover up or collusion. We have been stained enough in the recent past with the shameful Hillsborough and Orgreave cover ups.

    Ged Dempsey
    Wentworth Clp/ Unite

    Like

    • Probably only by resigning.
      But it’s an interesting question, and worth getting a legal view on this.
      To some extent the public gaze will ensure that it is difficult, and damning, for someone to refuse to testify if they wish to maintain any credibility. (Only the police regularly get away with this).
      But importantly, will these people be testifying under oath? That surely is essential.

      Like

    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Ged and Lovedinnington

      A Judicial Inquiry is exactly what it says: it is an Inquiry headed by an independent Judge with full Court powers.

      The Judge in a Judicial Inquiry can subpoena anyone to attend and to give evidence before the Inquiry. Failure to attend in response to such a subpoena is contempt of court and Judges take such contempts very seriously – some Judges have been known to jail such transgressors. Judicial INquiries have clout.

      That is why the Rotherham events demand one.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

      Like

      • I concur with Chris’s views and would add the following. Some of the allegations could amount to more than incompetence or neglect and the enquiry must be equipped to recognise evidence of this and refer it appropriately. Secondly, it is critical that this enquiry works closely with, shares information with and draws conclusions with those announced by the PCC. It is feasible for agencies to have performed satisfactorily in their own right but, without proper joint working and sharing of information, failed to achieve good outcomes. A partnership’s failure demands an enquiry into the partnership’s response. For that reason I would have favored one overall judicial enquiry at the outset.

        As. I have said repeatedly – until all those in positions of trust today have been thoroughly scrutinised and found not to be wanting, there is a real danger that today’s victims may not come forward. One would be one too many. Surely that is what everyone should want? Why aren’t these people demanding that they be scrutinised in order to remove any doubts about themselves, instil trust and put victims first?

        Like

  2. From Chris Longley MBE

    Nigel Bonson

    Dear Nigel

    Thank you for your support and your comments. Most kind, and if I might say so, timely also.

    I have this morning received confirmation by email that The Rt Hon keith Vaz MP, Chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC), has received my letter asking him and his Committee to request the Home Secretary to establish an independent Judicial Inquiry into systemic child rape, trafficking and sexual abuse in Rotherham.

    It would be particularly helpful if it were known to the HASC that support was widespread across the community.for an independent Judicial Inquiry into how the systemic child rape, trafficking and sexual abuse in Rotherham was allowed to proceed for more than half a decade without, apparently, tangible and effective intervention.

    The more voiuces are raised with HASC wanting a fully independent Judicial Review the better. The address for correspondence is:

    The Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP
    Chair
    Home Affairs Select Committee
    House of Commons
    London SW1 OAA

    and the email for such letters to reach Keith Vaz is HOMEAFFCOM@parliament.uk

    and the HASC Senior Assistant Committee Clerk is Andy Boyd.

    The more voices that are raised, the better, and if those voices also copy their letters and emails to Rothpol I am sure we will all be very grateful and the better informed.

    Kind regards

    Chris

    Chris Longley MBE

    Like

  3. It is very unlikely that Government will impose a Judicial Inquiry and Keith Vaz’s Committee has neither the power nor the influence to achieve this.

    I say this to be realistic. For example it should be remembered that Government recently turned down the Omagh family’s request, a situation where 27 people died and where there are admitted intelligence and policing failures. This is not to downplay child sex grooming, but more to emphasise that this is about the failure in only one town. Rotherham.

    I think we should start with the positives. We have an inquiry thanks to the Andrew Norfolk revelations and the resulting public pressure. There’s a forthcoming Civil Court action that will extract more information.

    It is up to the public, including we bloggers, and the journalists to keep the pressure on and extract the truth. It is a pity that because of their record that we can’t trust our Council, so we mustn’t ease off.

    As for calling witnesses, I suspect that whatever little hope the Sheep has of being re-elected will be obliterated if he refuses to cooperate. Indeed, he would probably become an outcast if he refused as for many there would then be a presumption of guilt.

    More worrying for me is the absence so far of a route into the Inquiry for witnesses and whistle blowers. We know that a lot of stuff was never put on record, and the only way we may be able to get at it is through personal testimony.

    It is on details like this that we have to be vigilant.

    I and I’m sure others will be analysing the terms of the Inquiry over the next few days, and if/when we see weakness we will expose them.

    It is the Court of public opinion and the fear of lost elections that has forced this back down. The same fears will come into play if we the public find the Inquiry inadequate. And in the background is the Court Case to further stimulate honesty.

    Lastly, given that the Jessica case must be part the Inquiry there is of course no way that Akhtar can return to any of his posts until it is completed.

    Even if he did nothing illegal, he is at least cited as being an actor in a process that failed to detain an abuser and therefore of inappropriate behaviour. His relationship with the Police Officer in setting up the handover, that Officer’s behaviour and the role of social workers are at the heart of public concerns.

    And lastly on this point. If he didn’t do what he is accused of in Jessica case, is he intending to sue The Times for defamation? I don’t recall them putting the term ‘alleged’ in front of their description of his actions, and the article has certainly cost him money and reputation.

    Wil

    Like

    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Will

      I too share your view that it is essential to continue locally to seek as much information as possible about every aspect of (a) the scale and nature of the systemic rape, trafficking and sexual abuse of children in Rotherham and (b) the responses of the organisations charged with the protection of the children who were assaulted so systematically. On that I suspect everybody will agree. For my part I will continue to seek all the pertinent information.

      Whilst I too saw that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recently had decided on balance not to initiate a Judicial Inquiry into the Omagh bombing, I suspect her reasoning was guided at least in part by the knowledge that The Bloody Sunday (Judicial) Inquiry had taken the best part of 12 years and had cost £tens of millions to conduct. So I suspect there are very special circumstances that obtain in Northern Ireland that have affected her decision but which are not present in Rotherham.

      The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) was frustrated in its attempts to get Ex Councillor Wright to give evidence before them. The written statements that were sent on his behalf and on behalf of Mr Kimber (Chief Executive of RMBC) and Ms Thacker (Strategic Director of RMBC) have so many paragraphs in common that they appear to emanate from a closely co-ordinated source. The HASC will have noted the nature and content of these written replies and will doubtless have formed an opinion on the extent of their candour.

      Given their lack of success in hearing these people give candid oral evidence before them, the HASC might well be minded to recommend more forcefully to the Home Secretary that she should indeed instigate an independent Judicial Review.

      From the information already in the public domain, much of it brought into the light by Andrew Norfolk, the disparity between what happened to children in Rotherham and the actions taken to protect them shows a child safeguarding leadership that had lost its moral compass. That lack of such a moral compass will not have been lost on the HASC, and I am sure the Home Secretary will be well aware of it too.

      So I do not share your pessimism about the prospect of an independent Judicial Inquiry into these grave matters of child rape, trafficking and sexual abuse in Rotherham. I hold a considerable faith that our national leaders will do the right thing.

      And the right thing here is an independent Judicial Inquiry.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

      Like

    • From Chris Longley MBE

      Dear Will

      Yes, there are indeed interesting findings from the Child Safeguarding Board Minutes and Reports.

      That is why I have activated the second part of my FOI request for the relevant RMBC Cabinet Minutes and Reports that cover Cabinet dealings with child rape, trafficking and sexual abuse.

      I expect to receive these documents imminently. I will then begin the task of matching these leadership documents with the information that is already in the public domain about those children who were abused in such a vile and systemic way. I have been compliling bthe public domain information for some time, so that should be a relatively swift task to complete.

      The outcome will be something akin to the “Rochdale timeline” in the evidence that Rochdale MDC submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee as a result of the actions taken by their (then) new Chief Executive, except that I expect the Rortherham version to be subatantially more detailed. No guesswork will be involved.

      Kind regards

      Chris

      Chris Longley MBE

      Like

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