Children still not ‘always adequately protected’ in South Yorkshire

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Efforts to improve South Yorkshire Police’s response to child sexual exploitation have had mixed success, an inspection has found.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found that South Yorkshire Police is committed to tackling child sexual exploitation but an ‘inconsistent approach’ at district level in Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster gives inspectors ‘serious concern about the quality of protection children receive’.

The inspection found that the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright and Chief Constable David Crompton had both made it clear that preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation was a top priority for the force, and between January and March 2013 all 1,700 frontline staff were trained in how to spot and deal with child sexual exploitation.

But the inspection found there had been mixed success in tackling the issue, with many of the staff interviewed claiming that the emphasis from senior and middle local managers was still on dealing with offences such as burglary and vehicle crime, rather than child sexual exploitation.

Roger Baker, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Northern Region, said: “HMIC recognises the commitment of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable to making child sexual exploitation a force priority. However, we have concerns that this is not properly being disseminated across local policing districts, and that as a result, children are not always being adequately protected.

“This situation must not be allowed to continue. It is unarguably of paramount importance that all children in South Yorkshire receive the same high levels of protection, regardless of the policing district in which they live.”

Commissioner Shaun Wright said: “I am very pleased with the feedback set out in the letter from HMIC.

“I asked for the first review to be conducted after it was brought to my attention that South Yorkshire Police were not investigating child sexual exploitation crimes as well as it could be.

“Today’s findings show that South Yorkshire Police are committed to implementing these recommendations and have already made big steps in the right direction.

“After consultation with the public of South Yorkshire, I have placed protecting vulnerable people as one of my top priorities. Since the HMIC inspection, I have invested almost £5 million into public protection units. This money will provide additional officers and staff investigating child sexual exploitation.”