Prime Minister threatens jail for public officials who ignore child abuse

Prime Minister David Cameron
Prime Minister David Cameron

Public officials who fail child abuse victims will today be told they face up to five years in jail as the Prime Minister orders police chiefs to make Rotherham-style exploitation “a national threat.”

David Cameron will unveil a series of sanctions after abuse reports by Alexis Jay and Louise Casey showed victims have for years been let down, disbelieved and even blamed by council and police staff in South Yorkshire and elsewhere.

Child abuse victims will gather with police chiefs and council leaders as the PM brings together cabinet secretaries for a Downing Street sexual exploitation summit in which Mr Cameron will promise to “eradicate the culture of denial” with new joint official health, police and education inspections and a new Child Sexual Abuse Taskforce of professional troubleshooters.

The Government will also promise to tackle a situation seen at Rotherham Council in which senior staff were often allowed to leave, sometimes with a generous pay off, rather than face disciplinary action.

Exit payments for senior officials, including council staff, will be clawed back where those people are quickly re-employed in the same part of the public sector, Downing Street said.

Significantly, victims attending the summit will be told that police are to be forced to end a situation in which abusers are still walking the streets, having never been prosecuted despite various abuse reports.

Child sexual abuse will now be prioritised as a national threat, meaning police forces having a duty to collaborate with each other across force boundaries to safeguard children.

The Government will also consult on extending the new criminal offence of ‘wilful neglect’ of patients to children’s social care, education and elected members.

Mr Cameron said: “We have all been appalled at the abuse suffered by so many young girls in Rotherham and elsewhere across the country. Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet, often because of a warped sense of political correctness. That culture of denial must be eradicated.

“Today, I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.”

Alongside the summit comes a £7m care handout, including £1.2m to help South Yorkshire councils pay for specialist foster carers.

The announcement comes as former Sheffield council leader Lord Scriven calls on the Government to carry out a Rotherham-style independent investigation of South Yorkshire Police’s role in the abuse failings.

Lord Scriven said: “South Yorkshire Police senior management team have been silent and hiding from the truth for too long. For the children and young people’s whose lives have been destroyed by what happened in Rotherham it is now time to clear up serious police failings.”