EXCLUSIVE: South Yorkshire Police given list of key Sheffield and Rotherham abuse suspects in 2003

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Senior police officers were given a list of the suspected main perpetrators of organised child sexual exploitation in Sheffield and Rotherham in 2003, it has been revealed.

Dr Angie Heal provided the list of names as an appendix to a major 68-page report on the links between grooming and drug dealing.

Rotherham

Rotherham

RELATED ARTICLE: South Yorkshire Police warned of Sheffield’s ‘very entrenched sexual exploitation problem’ in 2006 - but failed to act

It followed similar information about suspected abusers in Rotherham being provided to South Yorkshire Police in 2002 by Home Office researcher Adele Gladman.

Dr Heal said she has ‘no idea’ whether any of the named suspects have ever been convicted after leaving the police in 2006 following attempts to downgrade her post.

RELATED ARTICLE: New inquiry into South Yorkshire Police will consider findings of 2003 and 2006 reports

The list of suspected offenders has been redacted from a version of the report provided to The Star by Rotherham Council under the Freedom of Information Act.

But the section of the report made public said many of those involved in running child sexual exploitation rings in South Yorkshire were involved in other areas of organised crime, such as drug dealing and prostitution.

The report said at the time some of the main perpetrators appeared to be pimps and drugs dealers, including an Asian family in Rotherham and a handful of people from the Afro-Caribbean community in Sheffield.

The report added: “However, it must be emphasised that these are a handful of men, from sizeable communities where the vast majority are law-abiding citizens who wholeheartedly disapprove of the actions of a few.

“These are the actions of a few unscrupulous career criminals and whole communities should not be stereotyped on this basis.”

The 2003 report said: “It is a commonly held belief, from a number of different agencies, that there are some drug dealers who are sexually exploiting vulnerable young people.

“It is very evident in Sheffield and Rotherham, where information is received from projects that have been established to tackle the issue, that significant abuse takes place.”

The report also noted some of the missed opportunities to catch abusers.

It said one man had come to the police to report significant numbers of teenage girls attending his neighbour’s house. He offered his home as an observation post to officers and reported suspicious activity on a number of occasions.

But the report said it took seven months for the police to get back to him - by which time the suspected abuser had moved address.

In another incident, an 18-year-old girl went to the police to report she had been raped by a ‘well-known heroin dealer’.

As soon as she gave her details at the police station, she was arrested and charged with a theft - and was never asked about the rape.

The report said: “This was a tragic breakdown in communication, where there has not been malpractice, but a vital opportunity was missed.

“That young woman is unlikely to go to the police again and may also dissuade her friends from reporting such crimes too.”

The report also said victims were also warned off from approaching the police.

It said one 13-year-old girl had reported being raped on four separate weekends by a number of men - but the perpetrators threatened her and her family into not pressing charges.

Dr Heal also said abusers had been known to ‘intimidate’ local authority staff at children’s care homes - resulting in some children having to be moved to different homes because of the threats.

Copies of her reports went to each South Yorkshire Police district commander, chief superintendents and superintendents in CID and community safety.

They were also provided to drug action coordinators, community safety officers at all of South Yorkshire’s local councils and the Central Government office for the North East.

Dr Heal started working for South Yorkshire Police in 2002 and first came across child sexual exploitation while working on a report on crack cocaine use.

She said: “I was so shocked by what I found out. I had spent quite a bit of time working with drugs services in Sheffield.

“I had never come across this issue of organised child abuse in this kind of way.”

After writing an initial report on crack cocaine use in 2002, she followed up the link between organised crime and child sexual exploitation in more detail in her 2003 report.

Dr Heal said South Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards department and the IPCC should speak to her former bosses at the police force to find out why the issue was never properly tackled at the time.

She said she had a list of officers who she thought should be spoken to.

“I had a number of managers at that time. Somebody needs to speak to them to see if they can shed light on why this wasn’t dealt with.”

Dr Heal was interviewed by Alexis Jay as part of her inquiry into Rotherham.

She says she contacted Professor Jay herself as she wanted to make sure her research and experiences were considered by the inquiry.

“As soon as I met her, I knew she was on the right path. It was such a relief somebody was finally listening to this,” she said.

Dr Heal said despite her involvement, she had been shocked to hear the results of Professor Jay’s inquiry.

She said: “The headline on the radio said ‘1,400 children have been sexually abused’ and I thought they were going to say ‘in Syria’. I was in shock when they said ‘Rotherham’.

“But from what I know and what I have seen, it was probably more than 1,400.”