Rotherham Council’s former director of children’s services Sonia Sharp says she ‘regrets’ every case of exploitation - but claims she helped to oversee ‘essential improvements for young people’.
Dr Sharp, who was director of children’s services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2008 before going on to work for Sheffield Council, said: “You can’t be a director of children’s services and not take responsibility for what happens to children.”
She added: “Nine years ago, our greatest challenge was to change the predominant view that these young people were ‘promiscuous teenagers in consensual relationships’, rather than victims of child abuse.
“I regret every case of exploitation of vulnerable girls that was not prevented, but feel strongly that our collective efforts led to gradual but essential improvements in the situation for many young people.”
Dr Sharp worked for Sheffield Council for four years as executive director of children, young people and families - before moving to a new job in Australia in 2012.
She has been backed by her present employers in the Australian state of Victoria, where she is employed as deputy secretary of education.
Richard Bolt, secretary at Victoria’s department of education and early childhood development, said: “I have no doubt Sonia tackled the issue of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham with maximum commitment, professionalism and focus.”