27 Aug 2014

Police prosecuted only one in 17 Rotherham child sex reports

At least 1,400 children have been subjected to horrifying sexual abuse in Rotherham since 1997, with a report criticising the police for failing to act and prosecute offenders.

The independent report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham found that at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.

The report criticised Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police for not taking action when children as young as 11 were raped by men, beaten, abducted, and regularly trafficked to other cities to be abused.

The report states that South Yorkshire Police received 157 reports of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham in 2013.

In the same year, there were only nine prosecutions for child sexual exploitation. The report does not state whether any of these prosecutions led to convictions.

This means that in only 1 in 17 cases, or 6 per cent of the time, did a report of child sexual exploitation lead to a police prosecution.

Cases reported in 2013 may have not been prosecuted in the same year, but the report states that only one case has been prosecuted in the first quarter of this year. Prosecutions last year also may have related to reports made in 2012.

Police also issued two cautions in 2013 for child sexual exploitation, and South Yorkshire Police chose to take no further action in seven cases.

Police have said that they are currently dealing with 32 live investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

Read more: why did those there to care for Rotherham's children look away?

Police criticism

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham report says: “At an operational level, the police gave no priority to CSE [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.”

One extract of the report reads: “In two of the cases we read, fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene.”

“The police are now well resourced for CSE and well trained, though prosecutions remain low in number.”

South Yorkshire Police has not yet responded to a request for comment.

District Commander for Rotherham, Ch Supt Jason Harwin, told the BBC: “Firstly I’d like to start by offering an unreserved apology to the victims of child sexual exploitation who did not receive the level of service they should be able to expect from their local police force. We fully acknowledge our previous failings.”

Previous reports

In 2013, the home affairs select committee published its own report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and also found that there had been a lack of prosecutions.

Chairman Keith Vaz said last year: “In Lancashire there were 100 prosecutions the year before last, in South Yorkshire there were no prosecutions.

“We’re talking about hundreds of victims, of vulnerable young girls, who have not been protected because, at the end of the day, what people are looking for are prosecutions.”

This week’s report states that exactly how the numbers compare to the rest of the UK is unclear, because there is no standardised method of reporting child sexual exploitation across the country.

The report says: “Reliable judgements about whether child sexual exploitation was more or less prevalent in Rotherham than in other parts of the country and the very nature of the problem means that accurate reporting will continue to be a challenge.”

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright has today refused calls from colleagues and even from within Labour, his own political party, to quit.

He was was the cabinet member responsible for children’s services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010.