Councillors press police to be 'more transparent' with Child Sexual Exploitation information

Rotherham’s Conservative councillors have called for South Yorkshire Police to be ‘more transparent’ with information relating to Child Sexual Exploitation.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 5:06 pm

The councillors have submitted a notice of motion to tomorrow’s full council meeting, calling on the Labour administration to back them in ‘urging the force to be more transparent with members of the public and press’.

The motion references an investigation published in The Times, which alleged that South Yorkshire Police are still not recording the ethnicities of suspected child abusers.

According to the article, The Times requested a copy of an internal child sexual exploitation intelligence report under the Freedom of Information act, but their request was denied.

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“The motion should be rejected because it seeks to set up an additional and unnecessary layer of bureaucratic scrutiny of South Yorkshire police.

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Following appeals to the Information Commissioner’s Office the force was ordered to disclose the redacted document.

The document, named the ‘Child Exploitation Strategic Profile’, found that SYP failed to record the ethnicity of suspects in 67 per cent of Child Sexual Exploitation non-cyber enabled cases in Rotherham in 2019.

The motion has been tabled by councillor Emily Barley, leader of the Rotherham Conservatives, and seconded by councillor Tim Baum-Dixon, on behalf of the group.

They have called upon the administration to write to South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Lauren Poultney and South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings, ‘urging the force to be more transparent with members of the public and press’.

Dr Billings branded the motion a ‘muddle’.

“The motion before the council is a muddle because it treats an opinion piece by a Times journalist as if it is of the same status as a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct,” he said.

“The motion should be rejected because it seeks to set up an additional and unnecessary layer of bureaucratic scrutiny of South Yorkshire police.

“My full-time job as Police and Crime Commissioner is to hold the police to account.

“I do this by meeting the Chief Constable and other officers regularly and requiring them to produce monthly reports at a Public Accountability Board, including reports on CSE and CCE.

“The district commander for Rotherham also reports to the Board each quarter on CSE and CCE.

“We should not be taking up more officer time with more reports since the scrutiny mechanism are already in place.

“As far as the IOPC recommendations are concerned, they have already been discussed with the force and SYP have accepted them all.

“I have already spoken to the Chief Constable about the way FOI requests are dealt with and the report in question has been released, albeit in a redacted form.

“The redaction was necessary because strategic intelligence reports of the kind requested contain intelligence which may be of use to suspects. This should never be made public.”

During the public accountability board meeting of the police and crime commissioner on January 10, Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said that the profile had been prepared for ‘policing purposes’, and included information that may have identified victims.

“Given the clear public interest in in this area of the forces work and my commitment to openness, I’ve initiated the changes to how the CSE profile is written for future years.

“There will now also be a public facing CSE profile which is published on our website.

“The contents of this will include everything from the police document with the exception of the sensitive information, but it will be written in an improved and more accessible format.

“Additionally, I’ve also asked our communications teams to refresh the CSE section of our website, ensuring that that’s kept up to date with our progress operationally and against recommendations.

“I trust that these measures and our continued engagement with partners and the public will reassure people as to our commitment to tackling CSA and our transparency in doing that.

“From 2020 onwards the data set for ethnicity monitors compliance with the recording of the ethnicity of suspects for all CSE offences.

“The recording of ethnicity of suspects isn’t mandatory, so actually being able to compare force against force for compliance isn’t straightforward because not all forces will necessarily be doing it.”