Dozens more officers being hired for ‘hugely challenging’ Rotherham abuse scandal probe

Rotherham Town Centre
Rotherham Town Centre

Dozens of extra police officers from across the country are being recruited to join a massive investigation into the Rotherham child abuse scandal.

Operation Stovewood - run by the National Crime Agency - intends to hire 51 more officers and police staff on two-year secondments. The agency is seeking officers at Inspector, Sergeant and Constable levels.

Over 1,200 suspects have been identified by the investigation, the largest-ever into cases of child sexual exploitation in British history.

Paul Williamson, senior investigating officer, said: “Our number one priority is to focus on the victims and survivors, and that will never change. The challenges are huge and this is why we need more people to join us so we can do more and do it more quickly.

“We have an enormous task ahead of us so what we must do is effectively prioritise. We are looking at those offenders who may be still causing harm today but also those offenders who might have caused the most harm in the past.

“We are making good progress on Operation Stovewood, we have conducted a number of arrests, searched houses, seized evidence. But I’m impatient to do more and do it more quickly. That is why we need more people to join us. We need highly-trained, experienced and professional staff.”

He said the agency requires more people in roles such as victim interviewers, suspect interviewers, investigators and analysts. Officers have until the start of June to apply for the posts.

The investigation into the scandal is focused on offences committed between 1997 and 2013, the same period covered by the Alexis Jay inquiry which revealed at least 1,400 children had been victims of child sexual exploitation in the town during the 16-year period largely at the hands of Pakistani-heritage men.

Her report found the abuse had taken place partly as a result of failings by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council.

The NCA was called in to take over investigations into what happened by South Yorkshire Police in light of the damning Jay report and the force is footing the bill for the multi-million pound operation.

According to the NCA, the evidence it has gathered so far shows victims and survivors have been exploited or abused by many individuals, in locations across the UK over a number of years.

The majority of suspects have offended against more than one victim and many have been involved in organised trafficking.

Highlighting the complexity of the investigation, the NCA said interviews with one victim led to information about nine further victims, three high-risk suspects, 37 other suspects and 27 crime scenes.

The NCA job advert said: “The complexity of the investigation is unparalleled. Many victims have been exploited or abused by different men, in different locations over a number of years.

“The majority of suspects have offended against more than one victim and have been involved in the organised trafficking of victims within Rotherham or to other towns and cities in the UK.

“This investigation provides a unique opportunity for you to bring your skills and experience in support of such a high profile, serious and complex investigation.”

Three men have been charged with offences and 15 people arrested so far in the ongoing investigation.