The National Crime Agency (NCA) has listed the blunders and failings of South Yorkshire Police in the much-publicised Rotherham sex abuse scandal. The NCA’s report highlights a 16-year period of intensive blundering on the part of the police between 1997 and 2013, resulting in 48 recommended areas of improvement for the force.
More than 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were sexually abused in the Rotherham area during this period by men who were free because of South Yorkshire Police’s failings, the NCA has said. The NCA, which has been called Britain’s answer to the FBI, recommended nearly 50 ways in which the police force should overhaul its investigations of child sexual abuse.
When the scandal broke, it led to public outcry. The extent of the abuse taking place in the Rotherham area was revealed in August 2014 following the publication of a report from Professor Alexis Jay. A number of prominent figures in the region’s police force resigned following the revelations, including the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire Shaun Wright. The NCA’s investigation into the matter began in December, and the recent report is the result of this investigation.
Among the blunders highlighted by the NCA in South Yorkshire Police’s child sexual exploitation investigations are a failure to work properly with local authorities and not making use of evidence-gathering methods that were available to them. Furthermore, the police overlooked or failed to make use of ways in which they could have protected victims from further exploitation.
“Over the years,” the NCA’s report said, “intelligence and investigative opportunities in relation to child sexual exploitation have been overlooked by South Yorkshire police.”
However, the report did recognise that South Yorkshire Police has already begun the process of improving and moving away from past failings when investigating this kind of crime. According to deputy director of the NCA Andre Baker, who led the review, there might be new opportunities to pursue criminals who were previously identified in investigations but against whom no action was previously taken.
NCA director Trevor Pearce echoed these sentiments, saying: “South Yorkshire Police has already made a number of arrests in relation to these matters and other offenders who believe that their past actions will never catch up with them should think again.”
However, it seems South Yorkshire Police are not quite done blundering yet. The NCA looked into South Yorkshire Police’s current investigations into the scandal and found “improvements that need to be made at both strategic and operational level.” One of these investigations, Operation Mark, is to be picked up by NCA and integrated into their own Operation Stovewood as it lagged behind the other two in terms of standards.