UK

Former Rotherham Police Chief Has 'No Recollection' Of Recieving Letters Alleging Abuse

03/09/2014 10:16 BST | Updated 03/09/2014 10:59 BST

A police chief has said he never knew of the appalling abuse of hundreds of children in Rotherham on his watch but has denied his force is "incompetent".

Mike Hedges headed South Yorkshire Police from 1998 to 2004, when "appalling" abuse of children was taking place in the town at the hands of mainly Pakistani men.

The force and Rotherham Council were accused of "blatant" failures and inaction over the issue, which saw around 1,400 children abused between 1997 and 2013, according to an inquiry which reported back last week.

mike hedges

Mike Hedges, pictured here while in post, said the staggering abuse was never brought to his attention

The abuse included cases of a child being covered in petrol and threatened with being set alight and children who were made to witness violent rapes.

But Mr Hedges said the first he knew of it was when it was reported on the news - despite claims two letters were sent to him in 2001 and 2003 drawing attention to it.

"When I first saw this on the news, that was the first inkling that I had that there had been systematic abuse of this nature taking part in Rotherham," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"Certainly I have no recollection of this coming to the notice of my senior command team during my time in the force."

ROTHERHAM ABUSE:

He denied this amounted to "incompetence".

"Incompetence suggests that there was a total disinterest or knowledge that was in my hands that I didn't deal with properly," he said.

"My recollection is I cannot recall either the letters or this allegation of widespread abuse that took place in Rotherham coming to my notice."

"To my recollection, nothing of that nature was brought to me either by my commander or by the other agencies that had a number of different fora in which they could have raised these issues with me."

When asked whether he felt he bore any responsibility for the issue, he said: "Of course I do. I was the chief constable. It was happening when I was there so of course I feel most uncomfortable and disappointed that we didn't pick up these signals and run with them."

Yesterday, current chief constable David Crompton told MPs that 12 new victims of abuse had come forward since the publication of last week's report.

He told the Home Affairs Select Committee that 104 convictions had been secured since the start of 2013, while 40 more suspects were on bail.

The force is conducting nine "multiple victim, multiple offender" investigations, including two in Rotherham, he said.

What The Report Said...