South Yorkshire Police under fire for handling of Sheffield child abuse cases

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South Yorkshire Police failed hundreds of child sexual exploitation victims in Sheffield, a whistleblower has claimed tonight.

Ann Lucas, who ran the city’s sexual exploitation service, has said details about alleged abusers were passed regularly to senior officers - but they failed to act. She said she was told the issue was not a priority for the force. South Yorkshire Police has said the allegations would be investigated.

Between 2001 and 2013 more than 660 young people, mainly girls, some as young as 11, were referred to Sheffield’s sexual exploitation service.

Ms Lucas, who ran the project until she retired in 2012, told the BBC her team had passed to the police information including the names of perpetrators and their car registration details - but no prosecutions followed.

She said she had a 2006 meeting with former chief superintendent Jon House where he was shown specific information about the abuse of teenage girls but was told ‘their priorities were burglary and car crime’.

Mr House, who has left the police and is now a senior manager with PWC consultants, said he was unable to remember the meeting.

In 2003-04, Ms Lucas said her and her team started collecting information about alleged abusers, the addresses of where children were being exploited, the names of suspected perpetrators and their car registration details.

She said information had been passed on to senior police officers but no prosecutions took place.

She said: “There were arrests and child abduction notices, so they might move off that young person, but without the prosecuting strand being strong, we could divert the person away but with the message that you could get away with this, so they would move on to other young people.”

Ms Lucas said the meeting with Mr House in 2006 had included specific information about the alleged abuse of teenage girls by a group of Iraqi Kurdish men.

She said she showed him the information and asked for a police investigation to take place.

She said: “I was told that their priorities were burglary and car crime and we had to cope with no extra police resources. It was extraordinary. How could anyone in their right mind think that burglary and car crime is more important than young people being raped?”

In a response to the BBC, Mr House, who has left the police and is now a senior manager with PWC consultants, said: “Without more, I cannot immediately remember the details of a meeting alleged to have taken place eight years ago. Throughout my period we had to deal with very serious issues on a daily basis.”

Ms Lucas then says she took her information to the Human Trafficking Centre, whose officials asked South Yorkshire Police to investigate the claims.

The force then launched Operation Glover, which led to six men being convicted, including Aziz Hamed and Ajad Mahmoud who were each sent to prison for 10 years for serious sexual offences.

South Yorkshire Police said: “South Yorkshire Police will look into these allegations and where there is evidence of any misconduct referrals will be made to the IPCC.”