South Yorkshire Police: Cop told dad of rape victim sex attack would 'teach' her a 'lesson' - report claims

A damning new report into South Yorkshire Police’s handling of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham says the force made ‘systemic’ and ‘significant’ failures, but despite this, no officer investigated has lost their job or been found to have failed in their statutory duties.

Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:22 pm

One of the incidents highlighted in the report involved the alleged rape of a 15-year-old girl in a Rotherham park.

The father of the girl, who needed surgery after the horrific attack, was reportedly told by an ‘insensitive' officer involved in the case that the sex attack it would ‘teach’ her a ‘lesson’.

It was one of a number of shocking incidents described in the damning report.

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The publication of the £6million report comes eight years after the bombshell report from Professor Alexis Jay in 2014 which concluded that failures by police and politicans contributed to the sexual exploitation of around 1,400 children in Rotherham by groups of men in the town, predominately of Pakistani-heritage.

Operation Linden report

Published just minutes ago, the report from police watchdog, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), under the banner of Operation Linden, looks at South Yorkshire Police’s (SYP) responses to allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.

Despite the failures outlined in the report, which covers 91 separate investigations started between 2014 and 2018, the IOPC has concluded that its ‘investigators found no evidence that individual members of the force failed in their statutory duties’.

To date, no South Yorkshire Police officers have lost their job as a consequence of the Rotherham CSA/E scandal. The worst sanction issued to an officer is a final written warning.

A damning report has been published about the police response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham

An IOPC spokesperson said: “In many cases, officers had retired and, due to legislation in place at the time, could not face disciplinary proceedings. However, 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.”

In total, the IOPC investigated the conduct of 47 officers as part of Operation Linden. Eight were found to have a case to answer for misconduct and six had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

‘We saw examples of SYP seeing children and survivors as consenting to their exploitation’

The publication of the £6million report comes eight years after the bombshell report from Professor Alexis Jay in 2014 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.

Professor Alexis Jay

IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “Our report shows how SYP failed to protect vulnerable children and young people. Like other agencies in Rotherham at that time, it was simply not equipped to deal with the abuse and organised grooming of young girls on the scale we encountered.”

He added that the findings of the report present an ‘opportunity right across policing’ to ‘honour survivors of child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSA/E) by ensuring mistakes of the past are never repeated’.

In the report’s forward, IOPC Director General Michael Lockwood said investigators found that officers were ‘not fully aware, or able, to deal with child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSA/E) offences’ and showed ‘insufficient empathy’ towards survivors who were vulnerable children and young people.

“We saw examples of SYP seeing children, and young people, as ‘consenting’ to their exploitation, and a police culture that did not always recognise survivors as victims, or understand that, often, neither did those being groomed and abused,” Mr Lockwood said.

He added: “Survivors’ complaints reveal they were not always believed when reporting what had happened to them and this has had a lasting impact on their lives and their trust and confidence in the police.”

‘Many vulnerable individuals were seen as problems not victims’

When examining issues with the policing culture at the time, the report states: “Many vulnerable individuals were seen as problems not victims. Especially children in care. They were labelled as responsible for their own actions in many cases,” the report adds.

The report also highlights an incident in which an allegation that a 15-year-old girl had been raped in a Rotherham park was made to SYP, and an ‘insensitive' officer involved in the case subsequently suggested to her father that it would ‘teach’ her a ‘lesson’.

It states: “The survivor had significant internal injuries which, hospital and social care staff suspected, could be consistent with rape, and they required surgery. We were told by the survivor’s father that the officer dealing with the incident was insensitive and made no attempt to reassure the survivor, even suggesting to their father that this would ‘teach’ the survivor a ‘lesson’.”

During the same period covered by the report, a police officer allegedly told a parent who raised concerns about their daughter being missing and being involved with older men 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 said they have been unable to investigate this incident further due to those involved being unable to identify the officer in question.

The report covers a total of 265 separate allegations made by 51 complainants, 44 of whom were survivors of abuse and exploitation.

One such survivor told investigators: “I was told repeatedly by the police that I was responsible for my own actions for allowing myself to be a victim.”

Issues uncovered ‘make for uncomfortable reading’

The report states that the issues uncovered during the IOPC's investigations ‘make for uncomfortable reading’ and ‘included officers accepting, at face value, what they saw, instead of employing professional curiosity to safeguard vulnerable, young victims’.

Examples include taking ‘little or no action’ when finding an underage girl alone in a car with an older male, and an incident in which police failed to investigate an ‘older man after they were found undressed in a bedroom with a survivor’.

The IOPC found ‘systemic failures’ within SYP’s practice when it came to the force’s handling of allegations of, and information about, child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSA/E) in Rotherham.

Shortcomings outlined in the report include:

- SYP’s leadership failed to prioritise CSA/E

- SYP’s ‘failure to recognise the scale of the problem and effectively tackle it’

- The inadequate resources in place which meant the ‘small team’ involved in the work were ‘sometimes overwhelmed’ – a problem that investigators said the force’s leadership should have been aware of

- Funding and performance targets prioritised acquisitive crime such as burglary and car crime at the expense of other crimes including CSA/E related offences

Officers ‘frequently dismissed parents’ concerns’

The report also found that officers ‘frequently dismissed parents’ concerns’ and the information they could offer, because officers did not fully understand CSA/E.

“Parents told us they frequently felt the police were blaming them rather than trying to find out what was behind a survivor’s behaviour,” the report states.

‘The Jay Report brought a stark reality of our failings in handling CSE’

Reflecting on the progress made by SYP in relation to its handling of CSA/E since the publication of the Jay report, Mr Noonan said: “Policing has changed considerably – both nationally and in South Yorkshire – since the period we looked at and a great deal of work has been done to address the issues of the past. Organisations across Rotherham and South Yorkshire have taken important steps to improve how they work together to protect children and young people. However, there is still more to do.”

The IOPC made a number of recommendations in November last year, based on the findings from Operation Linden, such as incorporating the ‘voice of survivors’ into police training, nationwide.

Mr Noonan added: “We are encouraged by the progress made to address the recommendations we made last year to ensure policing learns from this. The challenge now is to ensure that, as this type of offending continues to evolve, police forces continue to adapt so they are never again caught unprepared.”

DCC Tim Forber said: “We fully accept the findings of the IOPC report which closely reflects those highlighted by Professor Alexis Jay in 2014.

“The Jay Report brought a stark reality of our failings in handling CSE. We let victims of CSE down. We failed to recognise their vulnerability and failed to see them as victims, for that I am deeply sorry. They deserved better from us.

“The brave accounts of these girls caused a seismic change in policing crimes of this nature for South Yorkshire Police and the wider police service.

Since then we have worked closely with experts in this field, and with our partner agencies to develop effective and robust systems – systems recognised in this way in a recent independent examination of our current practice. We listened to the voices of those affected and learnt the lessons of the past. Those lessons have been embedded in everything we do.

“We now have dedicated multi-agency teams in Rotherham working closely to share intelligence on suspects and to identify children who may be at risk. We use the collective powers and authorities of the agencies represented in the group to explore that intelligence and take action at the earliest opportunity, to prevent harm wherever possible.”