'About time' - Rotherham child abuse survivor's reaction to probe into former South Yorkshire Police chiefs
Child abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse has cautiously welcomed South Yorkshire Police's former senior command team membersÂ are to be investigated over claims they failedÂ to prevent widespread child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
Sammy, 32, who was subjected to a decade of abuse by gang-leader Arshid Hussain as a teenager, said the announcement by police watchdog Independent Office For Police Conduct (IOPC) was 'long overdue'.
The police watchdog has written to abuse survivors, including Sammy, informing them that the actions of senior ranking police officers in post when child sex abuse went largely unchallenged are to be examined.
Sammy said: "It's long overdue so I don't think it's a case of celebrating - it's more a case of 'about time'. If I am honest, I just don't think anything will come from the professional side of it because every time somebody has been questioned they just retire and there is nothing we can do.
"I try to be hopeful with all of it but it's just really hard after everything that has happened in the past. We have been doing this investigation for five years and I appreciate there is a lot of evidence and victims but it's taken a long time to get to this stage."
The IOPC revealed that senior officers are accused of failing in their statutory duty to protect children between 1997 and 2013.
A report by Professor Alexis Jay in 2015 found at least 1,400 children from Rotherham were sexually exploited by gangs of predominantly Pakistani heritage between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.
Earlier this year, the National Crime Agency, which is investigating historic cases of abuse in a bid to find offenders, said the number of victims had risen to 1,510.
IOPC's Acting Deputy Director for Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, said: "It’s important to say that we’re in the early stages of this particular strand of the investigation and the next steps will be to draft the terms of reference, which will be vital to bring focus to this complicated case. I’d like to make it clear that no individual officer is under investigation at this stage.
"The force’s strategy to tackle child sexual abuse during the period we are investigating has already been highlighted through Operation Linden. This is an area we feel needs to be fully investigated to give the survivors, and people living in Rotherham, confidence that we have carried out a thorough investigation."
There are currently 33 police officers under notice that they are under investigation by the police watchdog.
Mr Noonan added: "As we have stated all along our intention is to produce an over-arching report for Operation Linden that pulls together all of our key findings, outcomes and learning from our investigations all in one place.
"Our ultimate aim is to ensure that all those affected can be confident that their complaints have been comprehensively investigated, and for South Yorkshire Police and indeed all forces across the country to learn from our findings."
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "We continue to co-operate with the IOPC in relation to their investigation into non-recent allegations of child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
"While we are awaiting the exact parameters of their investigation, it is independent and ongoing and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."