Virtually all child abuse investigations in Rotherham have suspects identified, police confirm

Rotherham Police StationRotherham Police Station
Rotherham Police Station
Police in Rotherham have 1,800 active investigations into the alleged abuse of children, it has emerged, but only four of those do not have an identified suspect, it has emerged.

Details of the investigations, which include both child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation, were provided for councillors on the local authority’s ruling Cabinet.They have endorsed a new multi-agency strategy, involving the council, police and other bodies, which sets out the agenda for how cases are identified and investigated in the future.The Cabinet heard from South Yorkshire Police Supt Steve Chapman, who said there were 1,800 active investigations involving the alleged abuse of childen.In the vast majority of cases, suspects are identified quickly but in 207 cases it had taken time to track down outstanding individuals. However, in all but one of those cases suspects had been identified within 12 weeks.The authorities now deal with child sexual and criminal exploitation cases as similar entities and it is accepted there can be cross-over between the categories.The current figures in Rotherham include the cases being dealt with under Operation Stovewood, a large investigation into historic sexual abuse cases, which is likely to continue for an extended period.Supt Chapman told councillors that 90 per cent of child sexual exploitation were while females, but other types of crime had a more diverse range of victims.Part of the new multi-agency strategy is not only to detail how the authorities deal with cases, but to ensure there is widespread knowledge of the problem and surrounding issues across the community, including schools and GPs’ surgeries.Rotherham Council leader Chris Read said current practices for the way the agencies operated around child abuse cases were “a world away” from the situation the current local authority regime had inherited, following the child sexual abuse scandal which broke in the early years of the decade.His Cabinet colleague Coun Emma Hoddinott questioned the use of the expression ‘county lines’, which is used to describe the technique of distributing drugs from major urban centres to smaller communities, using vulnerable children as couriers and small-time dealers.She said: “As chair of the Safer Rotherham Partnership, we have looked at this in terms of child exploitation. We are asking partnerships to refer to it for what it is.”Supt Chapman responded: “I am confident when we talk about it we talk about child criminal exploitation. That is really a number of offences, it may be rape, sexual offences, honour based violence, drug dealing.“I do feel we talk more about child criminal exploitation than we talk about county lines,” he said.