Rotherham CSE survivor Sammy Woodhouse brands IOPC report findings “a kick in the teeth”

A survivor of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham says she is “quite disgusted” by findings of a report into police handling of cases in the town.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 2:42 pm

Sammy Woodhouse, who exposed the scandal by speaking to The Times newspaper in 2013, said that it “feels like no one actually cares.”

The report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was the result of an investigation into South Yorkshire Police’s handling of allegations of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

Published today (June 21), the report found “significant failures” by the force, which investigators found was “not ready at that time to deal with the nature and scale of the problem in Rotherham.”

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Sammy Woodhouse, who exposed the scandal by speaking to The Times newspaper in 2013, said that it "feels like no one actually cares."

Sammy said she was “not surprised” by the report’s findings, adding that it was a “kick in the teeth” that “no professional is ever going to be held to account”.

“This is something I’ve been speaking about for 10 years, so I know that there was a failure there,” said Sammy.

“For me, it’s just a kick in the teeth that no professional is ever going to be held to account.

“We’ve had report after report after report telling us all these professionals failed, how much it’s ruined our lives, and nothing will come of it.

“I wanted professionals on criminal charges. There’s been no accountability whatsoever.

“I’m just quite disgusted in it.

“I just wanted to express how many people this has affected. There’s also parents, siblings, aunties uncles, grandparents.

“We’re now all older, so we’ve got partners, we’ve got our children that have been affected by this.

“When you put all these people together, that’s a huge amount of people whose lives have been ruined – and it just feels like no-one actually cares.”

Investigators found a “police culture” at the time “that did not always recognise survivors as victims, or understand that, often neither did those being groomed or abused.”

Steve Noonan, Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) director of major investigations, said: “I accept that some people will be disappointed about individual outcomes.

“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.

“We identified very early on that this was a systemic issue for South Yorkshire Police, and we’ve identified what those systemic issues are.

“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.

“We’ve left no stone unturned. It’s been a very detailed and thorough investigation to understand what went wrong, why, what has changed and what still needs to change.”

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. South Yorkshire Police are making recommendations, real, meaningful, long lasting recommendations that will change lives to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

“And that is because of their bravery in coming forward and telling us what happened.

“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.”

Deputy Chief Constable 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.”