SEX abuse cases involving girls groomed by gangs of older Asian men are being taken ‘very seriously’ in South Yorkshire - and numerous investigations are under way, police said today.
South Yorkshire Police has responded to allegations officers and council workers in Rotherham turned a ‘blind eye’ to abuse of girls as young as 12.
Confidential documents from the force obtained by national newspapers revealed there were no prosecutions in cases in which under-age girls were found with much older men and where sexual activity was believed to have taken place.
In some cases, the documents alleged police action was only taken against the victims, including a 13-year-old girl arrested for a public order offence after being found drunk in a derelict house with a ‘large group of adult males’.
The newspaper reports also claimed there were 300 youngsters in Rotherham believed to be at risk of ‘sexual exploitation - but only a small team of officers assigned to the problem.
But chief inspector Jason Harwin, Rotherham district policing commander, said: “There aren’t 300 individuals being subject to child sexual exploitation. We have 300 individuals who are showing characteristics of being vulnerable to it. The idea is to identify them early and stop it from happening.
“We have eight officers co-ordinating action on child exploitation, we have public protection teams of 34 in Rotherham and a total of more than 100 officers in South Yorkshire as a whole which would investigate these cases.”
Chief Insp Harwin said the 13-year-old girl was arrested after assaulting an officer but he added the men in the house had also been investigated.
He said the decision on whether or not to prosecute was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service and there were some cases in which prosecutions were not pursued if it was not ‘in the victim’s interests’.
Ch Insp Harwin said the force deserved credit for being one of only a few in the country to have achieved successful prosecutions for child sexual exploitation including five men sentenced to a total of 32-and-a-half years in prison in 2010.
They were found guilty of a raft of sex abuse over several months which involved girls aged 13 and 16 having sex with the men in a park, alleyways and cars around Rotherham.
Ch Insp Harwin added: “We have some live investigations under way and the key message is that we take this issue very seriously. We want the public to help us by coming forward with concerns.”