Sheffield Council was “heavily involved” with a police operation that saw dozens of officers sent out to support the authority’s controversial tree-felling work and resulted in multiple arrests – but worked to publicly downplay its involvement over fears it would “politicise” the force’s actions, newly-published internal emails reveal.
South Yorkshire Police’s district commander for Rotherham Jason Harwin has explained why the force has not opted to internally discipline its staff over the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal.
‘……………By Martin Evans, Crime Correspondent
National Crime Agency says new investigation into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham identifies estimated 300 possible suspects
At least 300 possible suspects have been identified by investigators probing the Rotherham child sex exploitation scandal.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said most of the potential suspects were Asian men, while the vast majority of victims were young British girls.
The NCA launched a major investigation into the scandal after a damning report by Professor Alex Jay last year, revealed that as many as 1,400 children had been raped, trafficked and groomed by mainly Asian gangs in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
Following the revelations South Yorkshire police, which was criticised for its handling of abuse allegations, asked the NCA to intervene and the agency launched Operation Stovewood.
The report, which was published in August last year and was highly critical of police and local authority actions over 16 years, shocked the nation andled to a wave of high-profile resignations.
Trevor Pearce, the officer in overall charge of the investigation said so far the number of potential offenders was in the low hundreds, but he acknowledged some of the names gathered could have been duplicated.
Steve Baldwin, the senior investigating officer, said more than 3,300 lines of inquiry had been identified so far and the investigation would take some time to complete.
He said: “The abuse that has taken place in Rotherham is horrific. We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events.”
He said work to identify all the victims was ongoing, but the figure of 1,400 that appeared in Professor Jay’s report was a “good estimate”.
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The NCA confirmed that two of those under investigation are serving or former Rotherham councillors.
Mr Baldwin said his team was prioritising those suspects who still posed a threat and had committed the most serious offences.
But he said: “I want to assure all victims that we will examine all allegations of abuse and, most importantly, we will listen to victims.”
A spokesman for the NSPCC said: “The scale of child sexual abuse in Rotherham that continues to be uncovered is staggering. Eight years after the first victims of widespread grooming were identified the scandal is still rumbling on.
“This latest police investigation may relate to historical cases but still leaves the feeling that the dark shadow of abuse has not been lifted from the city.
“ We must hope this latest operation will finally sweep up those offenders who may still be posing a threat to children in Rotherham. No one should rest easy until all such predators are removed from the streets and victims get the justice they deserve.” ………..’
‘…………By Chris Burn, email@example.com
- Secret reports into child abuse in South Yorkshire made public today
- Senior officers given names of suspects in Sheffield and Rotherham in 2003
- Report author says abuse ‘could have been stopped’ – but police priority was burglary and car crime
Police bosses were warned almost a decade ago about Sheffield’s ‘very entrenched sexual exploitation problem’, The Star can reveal today.
But the expert analyst who made the warning – having previously provided senior officers with names of suspected offenders in Sheffield and Rotherham in 2003 – said today nothing was done with the information.
Dr Angie Heal said she was told by one senior officer such crimes were ‘awful’ – but the force’s priority was burglary and car crime.
The second report warned that abusers were able to carry on with ‘impunity’ across South Yorkshire, with particular problems in Sheffield and Rotherham.
But despite the warning, South Yorkshire Police are said to have failed to act on information about hundreds of abusers and victims in Sheffield between 2007 and 2010.
Dr Heal’s 2006 report said: “Sheffield has both an established on-street prostitution scene and a very entrenched sexual exploitation problem.
“There have been reports of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against teenage schoolgirls and adult women in Sheffield.”
Her report noted that there was a ‘reluctance’ for young victims to give information to the police and said a more ‘empathetic’ attitude was needed towards the girls.
It said: “Currently the focus is on the behaviour of those who are sexually abused and to a large extent the perpetrators of the abuse are able to carry on with impunity.”
Dr Heal told The Star she had written update reports on the situation every six months after an initial report in 2002 – but said no action ever appeared to be taken at a senior level.
She said there were differences between what was going on in Sheffield and Rotherham, such as the ethnic background of offenders.
But she said the lack of police response was similar in both places.
“It definitely wasn’t a priority,” she said.
“There was a whole mix of issues. It was around blaming the victims and not understanding the issue.
“I can’t understand why anyone told about the multiple rape of children wouldn’t respond effectively to that. There was a lack of common sense in applying basic policing practices and following the law in these cases.
“It was in the ‘too hard to deal with’ tray.
“A senior officer said to me at one point, it was awful but burglary and car crime were policing priorities set by the government.”
Dr Heal said she is frustrated nothing was done with the information she provided.
“I just feel so upset and very, very angry – the abuse could have been stopped. I feel for the victims and families and frontline staff that tried their best in such horrendous circumstances.
“There are just so many people affected by this.”
Dr Heal said she believes some improvements were made after her departure from the police by new Rotherham district commander Matt Jukes, who was in the post between 2006 and 2009.
South Yorkshire Police said today the force has ‘admitted to past failings in the way it handled child sexual exploitation’ and accepts the need for a planned inquiry ordered by crime commissioner Alan Billings in March. ……’
What has become of South Yorkshire Police?
This action or non-action regarding Child Abuse, is but another apparent failure in their duty to protect the persons of Sheffield and to fully act within the Laws of the UK. Is this another debacle of the setting of targets by Governments? When certain targets are set these targets become the priority and other areas may not be fully dealt with either by accident or design.
But this is but one area where South Yorkshire Police appear to have conducted themselves in a far but exemplary manner, others will include:
Will the truth ever be published into any or all of the above?……..’
Bettison it is too late to say sorry for the remarks you made after the inquiry findings. You had 23 years to formulate your views and comments. We all know you are now trying to save your skin.
It is not for me to decide how your conduct 23 years ago should be dealt with, but I believe your recent conduct leaves a lot to be desired.
As a Chief Constable, you, not only have a duty to your force, but also a duty to the people. The Inquiry held the view that the fans were not to blame and that some police officers had deliberately changed their statements. For, as I am aware, the Inquiry did not state that Sir Norman Bettison had done any of this. Therefore if you were not apparently guilty of this, you did not need to make a statement to try to clear your name and certainly not one that went against the Inquiry findings and still blamed the Liverpool fans.
This reaction shows a typical arrogance of some in the force and should not be tolerated and for this and your conduct you should go.
People have to have confidence in a Chief Constable, in that he has the manner and a respectful outlook to carry out his duties. By your recent remarks in re-besmirching the fans any respectability you may have had is no longer there.
So for you for your total lack of judgment in this matter, you are no longer FIT FOR PURPOSE as a Chief Constable and should for once do the decent thing and resign without any due delay.