National Crime Agency investigation into Rotherham scandal turns attention to missing files

General view of Rotherham.
General view of Rotherham.
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A new criminal investigation into the Rotherham grooming scandal is aiming to identify what child abuse files have gone missing - and who was responsible for their disappearance.

Officers from the National Crime Agency are currently in the opening stages of their new investigation into historic child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham.

The investigation - called Operation Stovewood - is covering historic offences in the town between 1997 and 2013, the same period covered by the devastating Jay report.

The preliminary stage, involving intelligence gathering and reviewing past evidence about suspected abusers, is due to be completed by spring.

The NCA was invited to take over cases by South Yorkshire Police following the Jay report, which revealed serious failings by both the force and Rotherham Council had contributed to at least 1,400 children becoming victims of sexual exploitation.

NCA bosses have now confirmed part of their inquiries will look at what records and information have gone missing and the reasons behind their disappearance.

Their investigation is running parallel to Louise Casey’s Government-ordered inquiry into Rotherham Council, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

A spokesman for the NCA said: “Operation Stovewood is seeking to identify all material, from various sources, that may be relevant in order to progress an investigation within its terms of reference. Part of the analysis taking place will include identifying whether any additional records or information exist but have not as yet been obtained, and the reason for this.

“The identification of potential material relevant to Operation Stovewood is an ongoing process.”

In October, MPs called for an urgent investigation into the theft of key files that exposed Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation problems - and the failures to tackle them – more than a decade ago.

The files – which have never been recovered – were taken from the locked office of a Rotherham Council worker in 2002. The woman had been working from the offices of the Risky Business child sexual exploitation project at the Rotherham International Centre on a Home Office funded project to investigate ways of stopping grooming gangs.

Professor Alexis Jay has previously revealed that four years of minutes of meetings between children’s social care teams, the police and the health service about exploitation issues have also gone missing.

She said minutes from 1999 to 2003 – which are understood to have included details about victims, and intelligence about abusers and where they were operating - had disappeared.

It has also been revealed that the NCA have now taken possession of files belonging to Risky Business that had previously been held by Rotherham Council.

A spokesman said the decision to pass over the files is supported by the council, South Yorkshire Police and Louise Casey.