The National Crime Agency are to expand their investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham after reviewing current South Yorkshire Police operations in the town.
The NCA - who have been dubbed the British version of the FBI - are take over the running of one of the three operations they have examined, as well as overseeing other relevant investigations by the force.
The work of ‘Operation Mark’ will now be integrated into the NCA’s soon-to-be-launched Operation Stovewood, which was originally due to look at historic cases of abuses in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
Its review team have also made 48 recommendations to South Yorkshire Police on improvements it needs to make.
The review found current officers working on Operations Clover, Monroe and Mark are ‘conscientious, enthusiastic and focused upon providing good outcomes’.
But it also said opportunities to investigate suspected abusers had been ‘overlooked’ by South Yorkshire Police in the past, while the force failed to work effectively with Rotherham Council to tackle grooming.
NCA Director Trevor Pearce, the Officer in Overall Charge of Operation Stovewood said: “A review of these three investigations has identified improvements that need to be made at both strategic and operational level. Many of the issues identified by the review team have already been addressed by the force or work is in hand to do so.
“I have discussed the recommendations with South Yorkshire Police and I am confident that we now have a foundation from which to deliver a set of consistent, victim-focused and coordinated investigations to identify, disrupt and bring to justice those responsible for harming vulnerable individuals in Rotherham within the period covered by the Alexis Jay Report.
“South Yorkshire Police has already made a number of arrests in relation to these matters and other offenders who believe that their past actions will never catch up with them should think again.”
Following the review report, all relevant South Yorkshire Police investigations will now be coordinated under Operation Stovewood. Two, Operations Clover and Monroe, will continue to be managed independently on a day by day basis by South Yorkshire Police, as the review team found that they were ‘making good progress and have existing links with victims and witnesses’.
However a third, Operation Mark, will be integrated into Stovewood and be taken forward under the leadership of NCA Senior Investigating Officer Steve Baldwin.
Mr Pearce said: “South Yorkshire Police has been open and transparent with the investigation team and there is a joint determination between the force and the NCA to use all available resources and expertise to protect local communities and bring offenders to justice. We will soon be in a position to update publicly on the progress of other elements of phase one of Operation Stovewood.”
South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable David Crompton said he accepted the findings of the review.
He said: “The independent review of three South Yorkshire Police investigations into non-recent allegations of child sexual exploitation was something I requested as part of the NCA’s investigation to ensure transparency and openness.
“The review found that the force had made a number of improvements and that staff working on the investigations were conscientious and focused and that strategic leadership was professional and appropriate.
“This highlights the significant progress the force has made in protecting vulnerable people and tackling child sexual exploitation.
“We have dedicated officers working tirelessly to support the victims and bring the offenders to justice and have made a number of arrests as part of these investigations.
“However, the NCA has made a number of recommendations for further improvements.
“We accept these recommendations and, as the NCA have recognised, the force has already addressed many of these and put steps in place to ensure other issues are dealt with in a timely manner.”