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No legal action required against Rotherham’s former leaders

Following the council’s failures in relation to CSE, an investigation concludes that no culpable behaviour was found

Published on 8th September 2017

No legal action will be taken against the former leaders of Rotherham Council over the failings at the authority in relation to Child Sexual Exploitation.

While there may have been errors of judgement or missed opportunities, “the evidence we have found would not support any application of the provisions associated with either gross negligence or fraud,” said a report by law firm Gowling WLG.

Their investigation was one of six independent investigations ordered by the council after an independent inquiry by Professor Jay found that 1,400 children had been exploited in the borough.

Subsequently, Louise Casey was ordered to carry out an inspection by the government. She found a council in denial and not fit for purpose.

In February 2015, the Secretary of State exercised his powers of intervention and appointed a team of commissioners to take over all of the council’s executive functions, licensing powers and to begin a rapid improvement programme.

As part of its commitment to improvement, the council commissioned six investigations in 2014 and 2015. The purpose of these were to further investigate the findings of the Jay and Casey reports and issues raised in the following weeks.

One of these investigations was into the Conduct of Senior Employees of the Council over the period of the Jay Report (1997-2013) carried out by Mark Greenburgh, Partner, Gowling WLG.

The report found that “whilst there may have been errors of judgement or missed opportunities as detailed in this report; and a failure, in some cases to tackle cultural issues effectively (or, in Mr Rogers’ case, to grasp issues in a service for which he was directly responsible); we have found no culpable behaviour which could now justify any form of legal action or regulatory involvement of any kind.”

The report added that these officers may be in receipt of pensions from the Local Government Pension Scheme. Whilst there are provisions within the scheme to review pensions in certain circumstances, “the evidence we have found would not support any application of the provisions associated with either gross negligence or fraud,” said the report. “We do not believe that there are any grounds for the Council to take steps in this respect.”

“We have not identified that disciplinary and/or capability proceedings are warranted in respect of any senior manager currently in post at the council. Similarly we have not identified that a referral to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is warranted in respect of any current or former officer of the council identified in this report,” the report added.

Some of the events occurred a long time ago and lessons had been learned with all involved having reflected and learned much given the passage of time and experience.

“This report has examined what happened in the past and many of those involved have retired or moved on. The council is not the same institution it once was either in terms of performance or culture, where significant improvements appear to have been made. We recognise that substantial progress, especially in children’s services. Whilst the present day managers should look to see how the lessons learned are implemented, in our view it is vital that, the council should continue to look forward,” said the report.

Gowling WLG also concluded that “on the evidence available to us we have concluded that the way in which the council responded to CSE in Rotherham was not the responsibility or fault of any one person. It was the product of multiple and systemic failures”.

Rotherham Council responded that the council now has an entirely new senior leadership team, who were appointed to ensure proper oversight of services and instil new values and behaviours across the organisation; focusing on better ways of working and a culture that wants to listen, learn and improve.

In children’s services, there is a new senior management team in place, also placing high expectations on standards. The council has made significant investments in this area; employing more social workers to enable smaller caseloads and strengthening front-line staff in critical areas, the council added.

 

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