A ‘survivors group’ for child sexual abuse victims could be formed in South Yorkshire to help guide police as they work to develop improved ways of investigating cases which are usually enormously complex and difficult.
The South Yorkshire force is now seen as a role model by others because of the extensive changes and improvements it has introduced since the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal broke in 2012, but the senior command team want to continue with further changes.
Current arrangements with different child and adult protection teams will be scrapped and one new public protection unit formed, with all staff members trained in dealing with cases that involve children, providing greater flexibility in the way they operate.
But a further development is expected to be the creation of a group for those who have experienced exploitation themselves, who are best placed to tell police how they can improve the way they react when cases are exposed.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber said the aim was to set up a victims and survivors group to help guide the force’s progress but he warned the need to continue learning was permanent: “When a group says you are good, it won’t take it long to fail again.
“I cannot stress how difficult and complex these cases are.
“When I look at some of the stories of people who have survived CSE, it is beyond tragic.”
The aim would be to use the group for feedback on how cases could have been better handled – even in cases where convictions had been secured.
“We have done an awful lot with partners in terms of training,” he said, “The issue with CSE is that it is often a hidden crime.
“I think there is more to do about how to develop eyes and ears on the ground. It can often be a snippet of information which leads to something more significant,” he said.
Although not all prosecutions succeed, the justice system was now more ambitious about the type of cases it would take to court, he said.
Mr Forbes was speaking at Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings’ public accountability meeting.
Dr Billings said: “Survivors say they would much rather have their day in court, even if it was lost, because it gives closure.”