THE newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South
Yorkshire, Canon Alan Billings, said this week that it was
"absolutely essential" to ensure that the police approach to child
sexual abuse that led to the Rotherham child-grooming scandal was
"a thing of the past".
Canon Billings, a retired priest, a former vice-principal of
Ripon College, Cuddesdon, and a contributor to Thought for the
Day onBBC Radio 4, as well as to this newspaper, was elected
last week in a by-election caused by the resignation of Shaun
Wright. Mr Wright was forced to step down after overwhelming
criticism about his failure to tackle child-abuse allegations when
he was cabinet member for Children's Services on Rotherham Borough
Canon Billings said this week: "South Yorkshire Police are
facing three quite big issues where their conduct, or past conduct
- hopefully it's all in the past - is at issue.
"One of the things I have got to do in the case of child sexual
exploitation is be satisfied that it is in the past, and that they
have learned their lessons, and that they know how to recognise
victims now and can deal with them appropriately."
In addition to the scandal about child sexual abuse, South
Yorkshire Police are currently facing two further investigations
and inquiries: one into the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, and
another into "the battle of Orgreave" during the miner's strike in
"Part of my job is to help the police face some very hard truths
about that conduct and to admit to it and regret it, if that is
what they have to do; and then to be very clear that they do
understand why things went wrong - and putting everything right so
that it doesn't happen again in the future.
"It is a very difficult period that they are just about to
He said that he was "satisfied in my own mind that the present
Chief Constable . . . is determined to get to the bottom of it, and
ensure that the whole truth is now laid bare. That is the only
"The police can't pretend things didn't happen, or be in a state
of denial about it. They have got to acknowledge faults if they are
going to change their behaviour in appropriate ways. I am satisfied
that that's what he wants to do, and I will help him to do it."
Two weeks ago, the Home Affairs Select Committee published a
report criticising the South Yorkshire Police's "inept handling" of
their investigation into Sir Cliff Richard, after the force gave
BBC News details of a search on the singer's home.
"It is clear that Sir Cliff Richard has personally suffered
enormous, irreparable damage to his reputation, though he has been
neither arrested nor charged with any offence," the report
Canon Billings said that he could not comment on the case
because it remained a "live investigation".
A committed Labour Party member, Canon Billings served as a
Sheffield City councillor for 13 years, until 1986, including five
years as deputy leader. He won the by-election with more than 50
per cent of the vote, on a turnout of under 15 per cent.
He has criticised the "absurdly high" salary of £85,000 that
comes with the post, and says that he will donate half of it to
charities working to support victims of crime. He also criticised
the £1-million cost of the by-election as "money that could have
been spent on front-line policing".
A UKIP MEP, Jane Collins, has apologised to the chief
executive of the Church Army, Mark Russell, after posting a tweet
accusing him of having links to paedophilia, writes Gavin
Mr Russell, a Labour Party supporter, had tweeted a
message of support for Canon Alan Billings before the by-election
for the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner. Ms Collins,
who represents Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire in the European
Parliament, responded by saying that UKIP would "soon stop your
criminal activity. Paedos leave our kids alone."
Mr Russell demanded an apology, asking Ms Collins
whether she had heard of libel laws. She deleted the tweet, saying
that "it read wrong", but added: "If you want to protect vulnerable
people your [sic] with the wrong party
After facing criticism from other Twitter users, Ms
Collins said: "I unreservedly apologise for implication", and said
that she was "a little hot headed". She has also said that she will
be making a donation to the Church Army.
Last month, Ms Collins had to apologise after tweeting a
link to an anti-Semitic Holocaust-denying blog.