I never expected, having called for bankers, doctors, business executives, MPs, police, media to be held to account for serious wrongdoing by sacking and/or prison in the worst cases (my website 23 August), that the imperative for such accountability would be so quickly manifested. On 26 August Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was finally forced to apologise, three and a half years late, that one of his officers sprayed CS gas at close range into the faces of campaigners protesting against tax avoidance by Boots in Oxford Street, causing (as he admitted) intense pain, fear and panic. For years the Met. failed to properly investigate this incident in January 2011 involving the use of CS gas in a very crowded area in central London, and were only forced to respond when the protesters, UKUncut, finally sued the police in court. The deficit in accountability is stark. An apology wrung out of the Police Commissioner over 3 years late is wholly inadequate. Why wasn’t an investigation immediately undertaken and a full written apology made and compensation paid to each of the protesters sprayed? And why wasn’t the policeman concerned immediately dismissed from the service and disqualified from any police service in future?
Then on 28 August another example of blatant police non-accountability. Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, refused to resign after being accused of failing to act on warnings of widespread sexual abuse of children when he was responsible for children and young people’s services at Rotherham council from 2005 to 2010. The Home Secretary said she had no powers to force him out – another clear admission of how police personnel and senior councillors are immune from any real accountability. It is almost incredible that those who turned a blind eye to child rape and exploitation can escape with impunity. Once again it is being left to the victims to launch a class action in the courts against Rotherham council and South Yorkshire police.
The report by Professor Alexis Jay highlighted sexual abuse of children in Rotherham over a 16-year period from 1997, involving a conservative estimate of 1,400 victims. They endured a prolonged nightmare of gang rape, trafficking and abduction, and were forced to watch extreme brutality. Yet a third of them wer already known to the child protection services. Last year there were 153 cases, yet after the initial conviction of 9 perpetrators in 2010 which clearly did not halt the abuse, there have been no further prosecutions. Why not? Why haven’t the police officers who turned a blind eye for years not been sacked, as well as senior members of Rotherham’s child care services guilty of gross misconduct in the line of duty, and where appropriate prosecuted? A review of powers to secure accountability in all public services is urgently needed.