Dozens of suspects in two major child sex abuse investigation carried out by a Yorkshire police force have been kept on bail for more than six months, according to new figures.
West Yorkshire Police, who last year were revealed to have more people on long-term police bail than nearly any other force, had 716 suspects on bail for more than 180 days in June this year.
The force has now revealed that more than ten per cent of these suspects relate to “two major child sexual exploitation investigations” it is carrying out.
It comes as an in-depth report into child sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough found the crime was a “growth industry” and affects pupils as young as 11.
Councillors were discussing a major report into grooming in the aftermath of the Rotherham scandal, where 1,400 children were abused over 16 years.
West Yorkshire Police last month released details about two child sexual exploitation probes it was carrying out. A spokesman said one was “in the Keighley area, where 28 men are currently on bail for alleged offences against four girls and the other in Calderdale area, where 31 men are currently bailed for alleged offences against two girls.”
Last summer, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that 3,979 people were on bail in West Yorkshire, putting the county’s force second only behind the Metropolitan Police.
A total of 859 were on bail for six months or more in West Yorkshire, only 51 less than the London force and several times more than other comparable forces.
The figures prompted fears that the force, which faces dramatic budget cuts, are holding off on charging suspects because they do not have the resources to bring cases to court any quicker.
Since then the number of suspects being held on long-term bail prior to being charged has dropped slightly, and the force has introduced a policy to ensure bail is being applied properly.
Suspects are offered police bail when an investigation is going on into alleged criminal activity but they have not been charged. They are bailed to return to the police station on a future date.
As of June 16, the most recent figures available, there were 3,734 people on bail in West Yorkshire. A total of 866 suspects have been bailed twice and 91 have been bailed six or more times.
North Yorkshire Police said it had 1,100 people on bail as of September 22, of whom 112 were on bail for six months or more. South Yorkshire Police and Humberside Police were unable to provide figures.
A report prepared by West Yorkshire Police about the management of police bail in June said that the management of bail was “time-consuming, its accurate administration can and does cause problems”.
West Yorkshire Police currently detains 105,000 people every year, more than 300 a day. The report said: “If there are known outstanding lines of enquiry that cannot be completed whilst the detainee is in custody, it is appropriate to use pre-charge bail.”
West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Battle said police bail “allows us to thoroughly investigate those suspected of committing crime”. He added: “Sometimes it is necessary to bail an individual several times to ensure that we have pursued every avenue of investigation, particularly where complex forensic or computer based evidence is concerned.”
It emerged yesterday that the Department of Education has brought in an expert to oversee children’s services in Rotherham following the child sexual exploitation scandal.