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Rotherham CSA report “lets down victims and survivors”, says PCC

The IOPC has today published their Operation Linden report into South Yorkshire’s responses to allegations of child sexual abuse between 1997 and 2013.

The IOPC has found “significant failures” within South Yorkshire Police's’ responses to allegations of child sexual abuse, saying that the systemic issues identified “covered many key areas of policing practice”. 

However, South Yorkshire’s PCC Alan Billings has said that the report fails to make any new recommendations beyond what the force has already accepted and also fails to identify individual accountability. 

PCC Billings said: “I am disappointed that after eight years of very costly investigations, this report fails to make any significant recommendations over and above what South Yorkshire Police have already accepted and implemented from previous investigations some years ago.

“It repeats what past reports and reviews have shown – that there was unacceptable practice between 1997 and 2013 – but fails to identify any individual accountability.

“As a result, it lets down victims and survivors.”

He said it was unfair that officers have had allegations of misconduct “hanging over them for so long”, but said the force was now “on a path of continuous improvement”.

South Yorkshire Police has admitted “we got it wrong and we let victims down”. 

However, of 265 separate allegations made by 51 complainants against 47 officers, only eight officers were found to have a case to answer for misconduct, and six for gross misconduct. 

Five officers did receive sanctions; two written warnings and three management actions. 

A sixth officer had their case not proven by misconduct panel earlier this year. 

In many cases, officers had retired and because of legislation at the time, could therefore not face disciplinary proceedings. 

Thirteen recommendations have been published as a result of the report, including incorporating ‘survivor voices’ into training as well as regularly updating victims. The recommendations and the force’s responses can be read here. 

Key problematic areas which were identified through Operation Linden included: leadership, professional curiosity and awareness of CSE and multi-agency working. 

One DI gave evidence to the IOPC that CSA/E was “not receiving any sort of quality service from the district elsewhere and was not widely recognised outside of the [Public Protection] unit as an issue”. 

They also found that specific CSA/E roles, where they existed, did not have clarity over their remit. 

Officers tended towards describing survivors as “being in a relationship” rather than as being exploited. The report further identified a culture whereby officers felt survivors “chose” to be involved in CSA/E. 

Meanwhile, a number of issues were identified with regards to poor practice, including insufficient supervision, continuous staffing changes and occupational stress. 

The IOPC found this contributed to a widespread lack of awareness where officers tended to respond to incidents in isolation. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Constable Tim Forber has said the report closely mirrors that of Professor Alexis Jay in 2014. 

“Whilst I am confident we are a very different force today, I will not lose sight of the fact that we got it wrong and we let victims down,” he said. 

IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “Our report shows how SYP failed to protect vulnerable children and young people. Like other agencies in Rotherham at that time, it was simply not equipped to deal with the abuse and organised grooming of young girls on the scale we encountered.

“We are encouraged by the progress made to address the recommendations we made last year to ensure policing learns from this. The challenge now is to ensure that, as this type of offending continues to evolve, police forces continue to adapt so they are never again caught unprepared.”

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