Published by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) today, the police watchdog’s Operation Linden report examines South Yorkshire Police’s (SYP) responses to allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation between 1997 and 2013.
The report found “significant failures” by SYP, which investigators found was “not ready at that time to deal with the nature and scale of the problem in Rotherham.”
The report revealed that no officers lost their jobs as a result of the process.
SYP has issued an apology to survivors, adding that all of the recommendations made have been “accepted and progressed”.
The operation covered 265 separate allegations made by 51 complainants, and the watchdog investigated the conduct of 47 officers.
Eight were found to have a case to answer for misconduct and six had a case to answer for gross misconduct.
In many cases, say the watchdog, officers had retired and, due to legislation in place at the time, could not face disciplinary proceedings.
Five of these officers received sanctions ranging from management action up to a final written warning.
A sixth faced a misconduct hearing arranged by the force earlier this year and the case was found not proven by the independent panel.
Steve Noonan, IOPC director of major investigations, said today that the operation “will remain open as long as there are survivors or complainants who want to come forward.”
“The welfare of survivors has been at the forefront and our top priority throughout the investigation, and that remains so up to this day,” he added.
“It’s thanks to their bravery that it has been possible to produce this report.
“The message we have consistently received from survivors is that they don’t want to see the experience that they went through happen to anybody else.
“Our work is about identifying systemic issues, and thanks to their support[and] their accounts we’ve been able to form our learning and recommendations, and we’re starting to see some of the work needed to make the changes that is required.”
“A key focus has been on identifying systemic issues within South Yorkshire Police at that time, rather than individuals.
“When these failings start to form a pattern, we need to examine the failures of leadership and that has allowed this to happen.
“We recognise that improvements have been made, and the police response to child sexual abuse and exploitation is much improved in 2022.
“However, there is more to be done and the police must remain vigilant as this type of offending evolves in the future.
“I understand why survivors in particular may feel that the system has not delivered in individual accountability.
“However, it became very clear very early on in this investigation that this was about identifying what those systemic issues were.
“Survivors really wanted us to ensure that this didn’t happen again, and the only way for us to do that was to identify the systemic issues, be really clear about what they are, and then to make recommendations to implement real and long lasting change.
“It’s very difficult with some of these matters when they go back a quarter of a century and officers have retired.
“There have been changes to a police complaints system in more recent years to ensure that in certain circumstances, officers who are no longer with the police can still be held to account.”
“We’ve got no evidence to say officers retired to avoid this investigation.
“Some of these investigations started after officers had already retired.
“We estimate that this investigation to deliver the 91 independent investigations has cost in the region of £6m.
“However, the real change that our learning and recommendations will implement, including, we hope, changes to legislation – we cannot put a price on that.
“That will deliver individual and long lasting life time changes for certain individuals.
Mr Noonan added that through “systemic issues” identified during the investigation, changes will be made to allow survivors to be “far better supported” when they make a complaint.
“We’ve left no stone unturned,” he added. It’s been a very detailed and thorough investigation to understand what went wrong, why, what has changed and what still needs to change.
“If these matters reached a criminal threshold, they are investigated criminally.
“The actions of individual officers that we’ve identified did not amount to criminal activity or criminal behaviour by those individuals.
Mr Noonan praised the bravery of survivors in coming forward, adding: “without them, we would not have been able to produce this piece of work.”
“Lots of survivors did tell us that they wanted this not to happen to anybody again, and we have done everything we can to identify all of the issues in South Yorkshire Police, and make recommendations.
“Real, meaningful, long lasting recommendations that will change lives, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.
“I understand why they may be disappointed. We wanted to deal with the systemic issues and implement real change and that’s what we believe we’ve done here with the learning and recommendations.”
DCC Tim Forber of South Yorkshire Police said: “I wholly understand the disappointment victims and survivors must feel today.
“They have waited eight long years for this report and its findings are that 14 officers have cases to answer for misconduct or gross misconduct.
“The IOPC were not able to identify some of those officers and some had already retired.
“Two people have faced gross misconduct hearings which resulted in one receiving a final written warning, and in the other case an independent legally qualified chair of the misconduct panel found that in fact, there was no case to answer.
“I want to make clear that this report rightly comes from an independent body responsible for police complaints. SYP has no influence of those findings as this would be entirely inappropriate.
“We did throughout the course of the investigation, throw our doors open to IOPC. Investigators had access to all of the policies and systems in our possession.
“All of the recommendations of the Jay Report and the Op Linden report and the many other reports from over these years, have been accepted and progressed.
“I know this will bring little comfort to those who have suffered so considerably but the bravery they showed in continuing to speak out has led to wholesale change in our response to CSE.
“They have played a key role in protecting those who could have fallen victim in the future. I only wish we had heard their voices at the first opportunity and prevented the harm they and others suffered. For this, we will forever remain deeply sorry.”