Cost of child sex abuse probe in Rotherham reaches Â£10m
The cost of the probe into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has reached Â£10 million so far.
Funded by the Home Office and South Yorkshire Police, on an 85 per cent and 15 per cent basis, there are currently 144 members of staff working on the investigation, with plans for the team to expand.
The National Crime Agency launched its investigation in 2014, after the author of an independent report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham suggested around 1,400 victims had been identified.
But today, the NCA, which is investigating historic offences committed in the town between 1997 and 2013, said the figure has risen to 1,510.
In her original report on the issue, Professor Alexis Jay said men of predominantly Pakistani heritage had raped, sexually assaulted and abused vulnerable victims while those in authority failed to act.
The National Crime Agency said the scale of the abuse had been underestimated.
So far, 110 suspects have been identified and 18 charged.
Professor's Jay's report caused outrage when it revealed that the sex abuse had been effectively ignored by police and other agencies for more than a decade.
NCA senior investigating for Operation Stovewood, Paul Williamson, said his team's analysis suggests there are 1,510 potential victims and survivors of CSE in the town, at least 1,300 of which are female.
Mr Williamson said his team was now actively engaged with more than 260 victims, had identified 110 'designated suspects' and currently involves 144 officers working on 34 investigations.
He said he is hoping to increase his team - which currently has a £6.9 million annual budget - to between 200 and 250 people.
"We will not falter in our commitment as an agency to this task," he said.
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"The identification and bringing to justice of offenders is what what we'll be judged on."
The officer said the 'momentum and pace' of the investigation is increasing, but warned that progress is necessarily slow as many victims are vulnerable.
He said: "That momentum and pace will increase and that is commensurate with the resources that are put into the investigation.
"I now have 144 which enables me to do a lot more than what I could do when I first started in January 2016.
"Justice, we are now seeing, is being rendered. And I've got a very, very committed team which is pursuing a very, very, worthy mission."
Mr Williamson described the mushrooming nature of his team's task, detailing how one woman spoken to by his officers recently talked about more than 30 named suspects, 17 other potential victims and 27 potential crime scenes.
The NCA launched operation Stovewood after it was called in by South Yorkshire Police three years ago, and is now the biggest investigation into CSE in the UK.
It is funded by the Home Office and South Yorkshire Police, and has cost more than £10 million so far.
Asked 'why Rotherham?', Mr Williamson agreed that it was combination in the town of a failure to listen to and believe victims, to safeguard them and to investigate their reports.
He said: "Undoubtedly, a toxic mix has come together of a number of factors - those being the four primary ones we are finding in Rotherham. Undoubtedly, that has occurred and as that has resulted in the scale."
Mr Williamson said four individuals had so far been convicted, 38 arrested and 18 charged.