Rotherham CSE: Police officer claimed girls having Asian boyfriends was 'fashion accessory,' report reveals

South Yorkshire Police officers tasked with investigating child sexual exploitation in Rotherham missed ‘many opportunities’ to safeguard children and ‘stop perpertrators,’ a new report has found.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:28 pm

Published by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) earlier this afternoon, the watchdog’s Operation Linden report examines South Yorkshire Police’s (SYP) responses to allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation between 1997 and 2013.

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Operation Linden was launched in 2014, and followed the explosive report from Professor Alexis Jay which concluded that failures by police and politicians contributed to the sexual exploitation of around 1,400 children in Rotherham by groups of men in the town, predominately of Pakistani-heritage.

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A £6million report examining South Yorkshire Police's handling of child sexual exploitation allegations in Rotherham has been published today under the banner Operation Linden. Picture posed by a model. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

In addition to the ‘systemic’ and ‘significant’ failures outlined in the report, the IOPC has also highlighted a number of ‘missed opportunities’ to protect and safeguard children and young people and to ‘stop perpetrators’ from carrying out child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSA/E)

The report states that some of the missed opportunities stemmed from a ‘widespread lack of awareness and professional curiosity around CSA/E’ at SYP.

Investigators concluded that this resulted in the force not understanding the ‘full picture’ of CSA/E-related offences, ‘leading to missed opportunities to protect survivors and stop perpetrators’.

They also found that police officers tended to respond to incidents in isolation and failed to apply what they learned from other incidents so that ‘information and intelligence were often not acted upon’.

The report states: “Despite a number of CSA/E perpetrators being jailed for drug, and other criminal offences, during our investigations – which included three brothers being sentenced for kidnapping and aggravated burglary (from 2002 to 2005) – it appeared to us that some perpetrators no longer remained on SYP’s radar, and we heard accounts from survivors that they stayed in contact with these individuals, and that they continued to be exploited by other members of the same ‘group’.

“Our investigations found that there was a tendency for SYP to regard some perpetrators as local drug dealers as opposed to operating as part of an organised crime group, and also being involved in CSA/E.”

SYP also missed opportunities to ‘approach community leaders’ to ask for their views on how to identify any actions the force could take to help tackle CSA/E, the report states.

Investigators found that this was despite the fact there ‘was clearly some awareness amongst frontline officers of the high proportion Asian men involved in CSA/E locally’.

The IOPC says its investigators were occasionally ‘told anecdotal information about officers commenting on a CSA/E perpetrator’s race’.

Examples include a parent who told the IOPC that when they raised concerns about their daughter being missing and concerns about older men, the officer said that it was a ‘fashion accessory’ for girls in Rotherham to have an ‘older Asian boyfriend’ and that she would grow out of it.

The IOPC say they were unable to investigate this particular incident further due to being unable to identify the officer.

Speaking more generally, the IOPC said it was difficult for them to ‘consider in some detail’ allegations where ‘survivors, understandably, had been unable to recall a specific officer’s details,’ such as their name and rank.

The report also states that a mother recalled an officer telling her that her daughter needed to stop associating with Asian males – although the officer allegedly used an inappropriate term – because ‘they were not good for her’.