A former South Yorkshire police boss has admitted he had “no idea” about the scale of child abuse in Rotherham while he was in charge.
Meredydd John Hughes, who was chief constable between 2004 and 2011, told MPs he was “embarrassed” at the failure to act to stop it.
He said he was “distressed” he had not been made aware of the problem and he felt “sick” when he read reports into it over recent days.
He was appearing before a Commons committee as it emerged 25 more victims have come forward since a devastating report was published last month into the Rotherham abuse scandal.
The Jay Report outlined how at least 1,400 children had been subjected to trafficking, rape and other sexual exploitation between 1997 and 2013.
It also said their plight had been ignored by range of agencies, including police, councillors and council officials.
Mr Hughes faced some tough questioning from MPs who said child exploitation “on an industrial scale” had taken place on his watch.
There were heated exchanges with Mr Hughes, who told the committee: “I can say with honesty that at the time I was both deputy and chief constable, I had no idea of the scale and scope of this type of organised crime.”
He said he had not seen three of four reports being examined by their inquiry until recently.
He said: “Some of those reports … I frankly felt sick last night when I read them. I am not immune to the ideas that this is a hideous crime and I am deeply embarrassed.”
But he was rebuked by the chair of the Commons home affairs committee Keith Vaz.
He told him his denials were “impossible to believe” in the face of “evidence of the most compelling nature” to the contrary.
After a 32-year career with the police, Mr Hughes said he had “singularly failed the victims of these victims”.
He said he re-iterated his apology and was “devastated that I could be in this position”.
His successor, Chief Constable David Crompton, was also questioned and told MPs: “I accept things should have been done differently in the past.”
But he also told the committee: “Things are better now than they used to be.”
Mr Vaz had taken the unusual step of requiring the witnesses to swear an oath before the hearing started.