roger stone
Roger Stone offered 'heartfelt apologies' to those who have been abused in RotherhamRotherhamlabour.org

The leader of Rotherham Council has resigned following the publication of a damming report which concluded 1,400 children were abused in the area over a 16-year period.

Roger Stone said he was resigning with immediate effect as he accepted responsibility on behalf of the council for the "historic failings" highlighted in the report.

The inquiry into child sexual exploitation (CSE) at Rotherham, carried out by Professor Alexis Jay, ruled that some of the young victims who suffered "appalling" abuse were already known to the child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town and there had been a series of missed opportunities to stop the abuse since 2002.

Jay detailed in the report how she found examples of children being "doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".

She added that some girls as young as 11 were also raped by multiple men and trafficked to other northern towns in order be abused by others.

The report said that "by far the majority" of the perpertrators were Asian men. However, the report said some councillors were nervous about describing their ethnicity to the authorities over fears "of being thought racist".

Jay added: "Others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so."

Rotherham Council said it accepted "almost without exception" that most of the problems highlighted in the report could have been avoided by senior council members, police officers and child protection agencies.

Despite this, chief executive Martin Kimber said no council officers will face disciplinary procedures and so far Stone is the only one to stand down.

In his resignation, Stone said: "I join our chief executive Martin Kimber and our Cabinet Member Cllr Paul Lakin in sending my heartfelt apologies to those young people and their families who this report shows have been badly let down by the Council in the past.

"Like any right-minded person, I am disgusted by CSE and abhor the lifelong damage that it wreaks upon the lives of all those affected by it.

"It is a matter of great regret for me, as it is for many others, that so many people have been traumatised by CSE here in Rotherham.

"However, having considered the report, I believe it is only right that I, as Leader, take responsibility on behalf of the Council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so.

"For this reason, I have today agreed with my Labour Group colleagues that I will be stepping down as Leader, with immediate effect."

Elsewhere, the report also criticised South Yorkshire Police over how it dealt with complaints by some of the victims. The report said some officers treated several of those who came forward "with contempt" and a report detailing the level of abuse in Rotherham was "effectively suppressed" because senior officers did not believe the evidence given to them.

Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin has now offered an "unreserved apology" to the victims for not receiving the "level of service they should be able to expect from their local police force".

He added: "We have completely overhauled the way in which we deal with CSE and that's been recognised in the report and by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary earlier this year.

"In the last four years we've made significant strides in how we protect those at risk from CSE, and the report found that the issue is 'clearly a priority' for South Yorkshire Police.

"I accept that our recent successes in tackling CSE will not heal the pain of those victims who have been let down, but we continue to deal with historic investigations with great success and will continue to thoroughly investigate any new evidence available to us."