OPINION: Why was child sex abuse warning unheeded?

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I can’t understand why anyone told about the multiple rape of children wouldn’t respond effectively to that.

Expert analyst Dr Angie Heal was speaking as The Star exclusively reveals how police bosses were warned almost a decade ago about Sheffield’s ‘very entrenched sexual exploitation problem.’

And nobody could put the big question we have today better than she does in that single sentence.

Why did the authorities not take account of this warning?

What is the point of commissioning such reports - which are meant to aid forces in pinpointing problems and seeking extra support, such as Government funding - if they go unheeded?

It is not a police fault that there is a problem in the first place, but it is when that problem is exposed and then ignored.

Dr Heal even provided the names of suspected offenders to officers, there on a plate, and nothing was done with them.

The second report she wrote warned abusers were able to carry on with ‘impunity’ across South Yorkshire, with particular problems in Sheffield and Rotherham.

Shockingly, Dr Heal says she was told by police that the offences of car crime and burglary were considered to be more of a priority.

South Yorkshire Police says only that it has admitted to past failings in the way it has handled child sexual exploitation.

That much is absolutely crystal clear to everyone now, after almost a year of awful revelation after revelation.

But if there was pressure from above on the police to tackle car crime and burglaries and reduce figures before cases considered ‘too hard to deal with’ then that should be admitted by the force.

Perhaps the right time to come clean will be during the inquiry ordered by Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Rev Alan Billings.

This opportunity must be taken - with both hands - to reveal once and for all what exactly went wrong, and what will be done to stop it happening again.

Departments which in the past did not work together effectively must do so in future.

The National Crime Agency recently acknowledged the force has begun to make progress in protecting vulnerable children, but gave 48 new recommendations of how to improve. There is still a very long way to go.