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Call for 'secret' meeting on Huddersfield grooming scandal to be held in public

They never learn. Secret meetings have taken place with politicians for nearly 30 years. All it does is conceal the problem from the public attention, and concealing it just means the problem grows.


Councillors in Kirklees have been invited to a secret meeting to discuss the run-up to a review into the child sexual exploitation that has tainted the reputation of Huddersfield.

But there have been calls for next Monday’s private briefing with independent expert Dr Mark Peel to be opened up to the press and public in the interests of transparency.

Councillors voted on November 7 to ask Home Secretary Sajid Javid to considering commissioning a review into the grooming and sexual abuse of vulnerable, isolated and underage girls.

The Labour-led authority passed a vote calling for an England-wide investigation “specifically to examine the role of public bodies and statutory agencies charged with protecting children and apprehending and convicting criminals.”

Conservatives said not focusing on local issues would effectively dilute scrutiny of what occurred in Kirklees.

They have demanded a wholly independent judge-led inquiry, held in public and outside the jurisdiction of the council and its partners.

Clr Nigel Patrick (Holme Valley South) raised concerns that Dr Peel, the independent chair of Leeds Children’s Safeguarding Partnership who has been asked to undertake the review, was “too close” to partner organisations and “cannot be regarded as impartial.”

And he says to hold the meeting, at Huddersfield Town Hall, in private is “unacceptable.”

“Following on from the debate at council on November 7, all 69 councillors have been invited to meet Dr Peel on November 27 to talk about the independent review into CSE, but the meeting will be held in private.

“Having been told that the review would be public I find it unacceptable that the first meeting with Dr Peel should be held behind closed doors.

“That means that anything said at the meeting cannot be made public.

“I think this review has to be held in public from day one otherwise it casts doubt on the whole process.

“I am already concerned that Dr Peel is not truly independent as he works with partners involved at Kirklees in his role with Leeds Children’s Safeguarding Partnership.

“I would prefer a judge-led review.”

It is understood the meeting was called by council chief executive Jacqui Gedman and will be attended by Steve Walker, director of children’s services, and Chief Superintendent Julie Sykes, Kirklees District Commander for West Yorkshire Police.

The Labour administration says next week’s meeting is specifically for councillors to be kept abreast of “the process and depth” of the review, and to be able to ask questions.

Twenty men have been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison after being found guilty of child sex offences including rape, inciting child prostitution and abduction of a child.

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