The National Crime Agency has asked for extra funding as it expands its investigation into the Rotherham abuse scandal after identifying 23 key suspects.
The organisation – dubbed the British version of the FBI – has prioritised contact and interviews with 54 victims and survivors as part of Operation Stovewood, examining child sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
It has requested millions of pounds in extra funding from the Home Office to fund specialist support for victims after saying it has ‘hundreds of potential suspects still to investigate’ and 9,000 lines of enquiry.
The bid includes funding for additional Independent Sexual Violence Advisors and the provision of necessary additional social care support and council and health services to support the investigation and meet statutory obligations.
If approved, support for victims and survivors will be delivered through a central multi-agency team, working to a consistent ‘survivor pathway’ process.
Rotherham Council’s commissioners have said the funding request includes £3m towards the cost of the social care element of the support.
A spokesman for the NCA said Stovewood is now the largest operation of its kind in the UK, with seven different investigations falling under its remit.
Two of these investigations are ‘suspect-focused’, with five relating to accounts from one or more victims and survivors of exploitation and abuse.
An NCA spokesman said: “We currently have a total of 23 designated suspects.
“This number will continue to increase as we interview more victims and collect more intelligence. We have hundreds of potential suspects still to investigate.
“We have prioritised contact and interviews with 54 victims and survivors. Interviews are being conducted as quickly as possible, taking into account their individual needs and availability. So far we have identified and recorded 57 serious sexual offences.
“Operation Stovewood has now assessed in excess of 120,000 documents, including 60,000 from Risky Business.
“The investigation is large and complex and we maintain a constant dialogue with partners to discuss potential requirements of them arising from the operation and service demands on them , for example the need to provide advice or support to a larger number of additional victims and survivors, as we make further progress.”
The NCA’s investigations are covering the same 16-year time period that was covered by the Jay report, which estimated there were at least 1,400 victims in the town.