Watchdog confirms probe into actions of former South Yorkshire Police chiefs

Prof Alexis Jay exposed the scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham
Prof Alexis Jay exposed the scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham

The actions of South Yorkshire Police's former senior command team members are to be examined over claims they failed to protect children from sexual exploitation in Rotherham, it has been announced today.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct revealed today that senior officers are accused of failing in their statutory duty to protect children between 1997 and 2013.

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A report by Professor Alexis Jay in 2015 found at least 1,400 children from Rotherham were sexually exploited by gangs of predominantly Pakistani heritage between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.

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Earlier this year, the National Crime Agency, which is investigating historic cases of abuse in a bid to find offenders, said the number of victims had risen to 1,510.

The IOPC, which launched Operation Linden to look into the actions of police officers during the same period, will now focus on former senior command team members after reports were allegedly shared with them highlighting the issue of child sexual exploitation in the town.

In 2015, Dr Angie Heal, who was a drugs analyst for South Yorkshire Police when she wrote her reports, said one of them in 2006 was sent to around 90 people, including high ranking officers and different agencies involved with the protection of children.

But Med Hughes, South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable at the time the 2006 report, told MPs in 2014 that he had not seen Dr Heal’s reports and had had ‘no understanding of the scale and the scope of the problems that have come to light’.

IOPC's Acting Deputy Director for Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, said: "It’s important to say that we’re in the early stages of this particular strand of the investigation and the next steps will be to draft the terms of reference, which will be vital to bring focus to this complicated case. I’d like to make it clear that no individual officer is under investigation at this stage.

"The force’s strategy to tackle child sexual abuse during the period we are investigating has already been highlighted through Operation Linden. This is an area we feel needs to be fully investigated to give the survivors, and people living in Rotherham, confidence that we have carried out a thorough investigation."

There are currently 33 police officers under notice that they are under investigation by the police watchdog.

Mr Noonan added: "As we have stated all along our intention is to produce an over-arching report for Operation Linden that pulls together all of our key findings, outcomes and learning from our investigations all in one place.

"Our ultimate aim is to ensure that all those affected can be confident that their complaints have been comprehensively investigated, and for South Yorkshire Police and indeed all forces across the country to learn from our findings."

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "We continue to co-operate with the IOPC in relation to their investigation into non-recent allegations of child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

"While we are awaiting the exact parameters of their investigation, it is independent and ongoing and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."