The team of detectives who investigated child sex pimp Amanda Spencer’s crimes have been commended by a Sheffield judge.
Led by Detective Chief Inspector Bob Chapman, DS Scott Harrison and his team worked tirelessly to secure the prosecutions of Amanda Spencer and paedophile Ian Foster – even taking calls from victims in the middle of the night.
Judge Michael Murphy QC commended the Operation Alphabet team and said it was the biggest investigation ever into child sexual exploitation in South Yorkshire.
He praised their ‘exceptional investigative diligence’ adding the case was a ‘model of its kind’.
“Never have I seen so many vulnerable victims in one case,” said Judge Murphy.
Alphabet was launched in 2011 because of concerns for young girls repeatedly going missing from home.
A year later South Yorkshire Police were criticised in the national media for a lack of child sexual exploitation prosecutions.
Officers were unable to speak out because of the ongoing investigation and concerns the publicity would put the vulnerable victims off going through the ordeal of a trial.
But, behind the scenes, detectives were gathering the evidence to prosecute Spencer and Foster.
The team included experts, including analysts who examined phone records and family liaison officers DCs Paul Badger and Karen Edge.
They provided constant support to the victims, taking calls at all hours of the day and night.
One girl said: “There have been times where I have not wanted to go through with this. “It has been a huge relief to know that when I feel like I can’t do it, I can ring and talk to them.
“I didn’t think I could go through with the ID parade but they talked me through it, supported me and genuinely cared – I couldn’t have done this without them.”
Yorkshire’s top lawyer has urged other victims of child sexual exploitation to come forward and report abuse.
Speaking after Amanda Spencer was convicted, chief crown prosecutor Martin Goldman said: “Victims who succumb to sexual activity through grooming and manipulation do not, in the eyes of the law, consent to it. “If this has happened to you, your freedom to make a choice has been taken away. “I urge any victims of sexual offences to come forward and report their abuse.
“We and the police will listen to you and support you.”
Today children’s charity the NSPCC urged parents to speak to their children if they are worried about them becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
The charity runs two helplines – one for children the other for parents, professionals and carers.
Fiona Richards, of the NSPCC, said: “Try to create an environment where children can tell. Child sexual exploitation can be shrouded in secrecy and silence. Reassure children they are not going to get into trouble.”
“We also need to educate children and young people that perpetrators come in all guises and ages. “They can be male, female and of all races and backgrounds, sometimes working alone and sometimes in gangs.
“There is no typical victim of sexual exploitation, all children can be targeted.”
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