Britain's interior minister on Tuesday accused local
authorities in the English town of Rotherham of a "complete
dereliction of duty" for the way they responded to the sexual
exploitation of at least 1,400 children by men of mostly
Speaking in parliament, Home Secretary Theresa May said the
government was considering investigating the local council in
the northern English town, and specifically whether
"institutionalised political correctness" - or a fear of
being branded racist - was to blame for the cases being
May spoke as the police force in South Yorkshire, the county
where Rotherham is located, launched an independent
investigation into its own handling of the cases and the
opposition Labour party suspended four local councillors.
The scale of the abuse, between 1997 and 2013 - in which
girls as young as 11 were plied with drugs and alcohol and
subjected to gang rapes - was revealed by an independent
report published last week.
The case has divided people in Rotherham, a poor town just
outside the city of Sheffield which was once known to the
world as a prospering hub of Britain's steel and coal
Some residents believe a timidity about confronting the
racial aspects of the abuse prompted authorities to turn a
blind eye, while others believe that is just being used as an
excuse to cover up rank incompetence.
May described the report into the scandal as an account of
the "terrible failures by Rotherham Council - and by the
police and other agencies - to protect vulnerable children."
"It was a complete dereliction of duty," she said, promising
that the government would act on the report to bolster
existing procedures designed to protect children.
Britain has already been shocked by a string of high profile
historical child sex abuse cases involving celebrities such
as Jimmy Savile, who was posthumously found to have been one
of the country's most prolific sex offenders.
May said the findings of the Rotherham report would feed into
an existing inquiry into allegations that British public
institutions failed to protect children from child sex abuse.
She spoke as South Yorkshire Police launched its own separate
independent investigation to try to identify wrongdoing or
failings by its officers. It said the investigation was
necessary to restore public confidence in the force.
Labour said it was suspending four councillors who held
senior roles in the local administration at the time of the
abuses pending further investigation.
"Further action against others in position of responsibility
at the time may follow," the party said in a statement.
"Those responsible must be and will be held to account."