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Saturday 20th September 2014
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Police Commissioner Resigns From Labour Party

Wednesday, 27th August 2014 21:35

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright has resigned from the Labour Party - but said he will not give up his job.

He announced his move less than an hour after Labour threatened to suspend him from the party over his perceived failings in the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

Mr Wright was a Rotherham councillor, charged with heading up the local authority's child protection services at the height of the scandal, where an estimated 1,400 children are believed to have been groomed and abused by gangs of Asian men.

On Tuesday, a highly critical report highlighted widespread failings at both Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police for allowing that abuse to flourish unchecked for more than 16 years.

Despite calls for Mr Wright's resignation from senior politicians in his own party, the Home Secretary, child protection experts and victims, he refuses to go and there is little anyone can do to remove him.

"I formally tender my resignation from the Labour Party," he said in a statement late on Wednesday night.

"However, I remain committed to, and intend to remain in, my role as an Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire."

Established by Home Secretary Theresa May two years ago, PCCs were specifically designed to be directly elected and free from any interference by chief constables or politicians. 

They can only be kicked out by the public in PCC elections every four years.

On Wednesday, Mrs May said it was not her job to select or dismiss PCCs but suggested he should heed calls from his own party to go.

She said: "Shaun Wright obviously has had involvement in this, both in his role as a councillor and obviously he's now the police and crime commissioner.

"It's not my job as Home Secretary to hire and fire police and crime commissioners. The whole point of them is that they are elected by the people, so ultimately it is a choice for the electorate.

"But I believe his own party have called for him to resign. I believe he has real questions to answer and I think in the circumstances he should heed those calls."

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper added to the pressure on Mr Wright to quit his £85,000-a-year job.

She told Sky News: "We have said we think the police and crime commissioner should stand down, just as the leader of the council has done, because 1,400 children were abused and they were let down badly by the authorities."

Harry Harpham, chairman of South Yorkshire's police and crime panel, said he believed Mr Wright's position had become "untenable" and called on him to stand down "at the earliest opportunity".

The Labour councillor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had been unable to speak to Mr Wright but insisted he would be seeking an urgent meeting to communicate his view.

Mr Wright has continued to insist he was not aware of the magnitude of the abuse in Rotherham.

He told Sky News: "Clearly I'm very sorry for any abuse that took place - if I could have prevented it, I would. Any right-minded human being would want to protect vulnerable children, of that I am convinced.

"All I can say is that this is a top priority for South Yorkshire Police and it will remain a top priority for South Yorkshire Police for as long as I am in this role."

Although much of the attention is focused on one man's perceived inaction in protecting Rotherham's abuse victims, the role of many others has also been called into question as the failings in the South Yorkshire town were systemic and widespread.

Roger Stone, the leader of Rotherham Council, stepped down with immediate effect following the publication of the report.