Legal firm which cleared ex-Rotherham Council boss over scandal now investigating other managers

Riverside House, headquarter of Rotherham Council
Riverside House, headquarter of Rotherham Council

A legal firm which cleared a former Rotherham Council boss over the child abuse scandal is now assisting the authority in investigating the conduct of other senior staff she worked with.

Rotherham Council has confirmed it has employed Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co to look at the conduct of senior staff referred to in the Alexis Jay and Louise Casey reports.

Both reports highlighted and criticised the authority’s serious failings in dealing with child sexual exploitation issues.

The same firm was paid more than £90,000 by Doncaster Council last year for a report which cleared its assistant director for children and families Jackie Wilson of any wrongdoing in relation to her time at Rotherham Council when the child sexual exploitation scandal was unfolding.

Mrs Wilson was responsible for safeguarding children in Rotherham between 2002 and 2007.

Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller said last March: “The investigation that we commissioned has found that there is no evidence to support allegations that this staff member was involved in a cover up of CSE, nor that she should be singled out as being uniquely culpable for the failings identified in the Professor Jay report.”

The investigation was later revealed to have cost Doncaster Council £109,801.

A Rotherham Council spokesman confirmed the same firm are now involved with its investigation into managerial staff.

“Wragge’s solicitors are undertaking a piece of ongoing work, looking at the conduct of senior staff referred to in the Jay and Casey reports,” she said.

The Jay report, published in August 2014, found that at least 1,400 children in Rotherham had been the victims of sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013.

Professor Jay said: “Over the first 12 years covered by this inquiry, the collective failures of political and officer leadership were blatant.

“From the beginning, there was growing evidence that child sexual exploitation was a serious problem in Rotherham.

“This came from those working in residential care and from youth workers who knew the young people well.

“Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers.”

Professor Jay said reports warning of the situation in the early-to-mid 2000s were ignored, with one being ‘effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained’.

She said: “This had led to suggestions of cover-up.”

Louise Casey’s follow-up report in February last year said she found a ‘council in denial’ over its failings on child sexual exploitation.

She said: “Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only to not act, but to close that service down.”