Police officers investigating child sexual exploitation in Sheffield were told to ‘wind your necks in’ by bosses after warning about the scale of the problem, a retired detective has claimed.
A BBC investigation has alleged that senior officers thought car crime, burglary and robbery were bigger priorities than child sexual exploitation, despite detectives in the city warning it was a major problem.
Retired detective Tony Brookes, who spent 30 years with the force, worked on inquiries in 2007 which led to six abusers being convicted, and he wanted to build on the case as he recognised the size of the problem.
He said the issue of child sexual exploitation in Sheffield was ‘massive’ and bigger than in neighbouring Rotherham, where at least 1,400 children were abused over a 16-year-period.
Mr Brookes said his team was told by a senior officer to ‘wind your necks in’.
He said: “I don’t think the force wanted to pay. The priorities are robbery, burglary and car crime.
“They are the ones the Government said we want you to tackle, and the resources were spent on that.”
The allegations from Mr Brookes have prompted Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings to call for a wide-ranging inspection of the force.
Dr Billings wants it to be similar in scope to the recent Louise Casey review of Rotherham Council, which resulted in Government-appointed commissioners taking control of the running of the council and the entire cabinet of the local authority resigning.
Dr Billings said: “Public confidence in South Yorkshire Police has been severely damaged by these most recent allegations that the force failed to listen to hundreds of abused young people in Sheffield as we know they failed in Rotherham.
“If I am to do my job, I need to be sure that everything that can reasonably be known about the past is known. This is the first and crucial step if the force is to get itself into a better place.
“However, in the light of what has now been revealed I cannot be certain that we are at that point.
“Reluctantly, therefore, I now believe that a full ‘Casey-like’ county-wide inspection of South Yorkshire Police is necessary to get to an accepted understanding about the past and whether things have changed - which is the first step to restoring public confidence.”
Dr Billings has met local MPs, the chief constable and city council officials and is in negotiations with the Home Office about how to proceed.
He said: “The inspection needs to be thorough but not drawn out, sufficiently resourced, and recognise the investigations currently being conducted by the Independent Police Complaints’ Commission and National Crime Agency.
“The inspection needs to proceed alongside work the force is already doing with partners to address recommendations in the Professor Jay and Louise Casey reports.
“It also needs to work alongside the group I have established to listen to the views of victims, survivors and their families which I am feeding into the force in relation to reports of CSE now.”
In a statement in response, Chief Constable David Crompton said: “There has been a high level of scrutiny around the way South Yorkshire Police handled child sexual exploitation in the past and I completely understand and accept this needs to take place.
“This scrutiny includes an ongoing independent investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and being held to account by the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings.
“Nevertheless, in view of the most recent allegations about child sexual exploitation in Sheffield I accept that a further inspection may be necessary in order to deal with these issues once and for all.”