shaun wright
Shaun Wright was children's services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010.South Yorkshire Police

South Yorkshire Police Commissioner Shaun Wright has refused to resign following the publication of a damming report highlighting how 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham over 16 years.

There have been calls for Wright to step down from his role following the report into child sexual exploitation (CSE) at Rotherham by Professor Alexis Jay. The report said children suffered "appalling" abuse because of frequent failures by police, child protection agencies and council members.

The report mentions children being doused in petrol and threatened to be set alight and girls as young as 11 being raped by gangs of men.

Wright, a former Labour councillor for Rotherham, was elected South Yorkshire PCC in 2012 after he was head of children's services from 2005 to 2010.

Politicians and council members said Wright should resign after choosing "not to do anything" about the level of child abuse in Rotherham.

Wright has rejected calls for his resignation from his current role in the police as he believed he is "the most appropriate person" to hold this office currently.

He told Sky News he was "completely astonished" by the level of abuse highlighted in the report and regrets he "wasn't more aware of the issue at the time".

He added to the BBC: "As an elected member I came into this role to make a difference. At every stage I've done my utmost to protect those people.

"I have taken lessons learned in that office and brought them to bear in my new role with South Yorkshire Police.

"I believe I am the most appropriate person to hold this office at this current time."

He added he was "very sorry" for the abuse which took place between 1997 and 2013.

The report said the children were abused thanks to a catalogue of failures by authorities, including police treating victims with "contempt" and "effectrively suppressing" reports detailing the level of abuse in Rotherham because officers did not believe the data given to them.

Council staff also did not flag up that most of the perpetrators were Asian men over fears of being construed as racist.

Rotherham Council said it accepted "almost without exception" that most of the problems highlighted in the report could have been avoided. Despite this, no council officer will be facing disciplinary action and only council leader Roger Stone has stepped down so far.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: "The force fully intends to implement the recommendations made in the Alexis Jay report, furthermore, where there is evidence that officers failed to properly investigate, or have covered up evidence, then this will be referred to the IPCC.

"Clearly many mistakes were made over the period covered by the report, and the acknowledgement that there have been a number of improvements to policing practice and resourcing in the last four years is welcome but will not make anyone complacent about the challenge this dreadful crime represents."