Dozens of potential abusers targeted by police

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire
Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire
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DOZENS OF potential child sexual exploitation victims and possible abusers have been identified by police in North Yorkshire as local authorities attempt to reassure the public that the Rotherham scandal will not be repeated in the region.

According to North Yorkshire Police, the majority of the 110 possible victims, 20 of whom are said to be at the “highest risk”, are concentrated in the Scarborough and York areas because of the nature of the local populations.

Senior officers at the force, who have also identified 80 possible abusers across 18 locations in England’s safest county, have confirmed that specialist detectives will present a “health check” on how it tackles the problem in the aftermath of the bombshell report by Prof Alexis Jay into Rotherham which was published in August.

Revelations of the full scale of the abuse in the town, where 1,400 children were sexually exploited over 16 years as council and police officials turned a blind eye, have sparked intense scrutiny in other areas of the country where it is feared the issue may have been ignored.

Council officials on the other side of the North Yorkshire border in Middlesbrough are currently studying a new report which includes fresh allegations of serious exploitation involving children aged as young as 11.

One assistant headteacher told the probe child sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough was a “growth industry” which leaves primary school children as well as older children at risk.

In North Yorkshire, the Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, has announced plans for a “health check” on how the force deals with child sex abuse in a bid to reassure the public that the failures in Rotherham will not be repeated.

Police and council officials in the South Yorkshire town were castigated in Prof Jay’s report for failing to respond to warnings about the scale of the problem or to work together to tackle it.

Speaking to North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Panel last week, Mrs Mulligan admitted that child sex abuse had been brought into sharp focus by the report into the Rotherham scandal, but she was adamant that it had “been a priority in North Yorkshire for a considerable period of time”.

She maintained more funds were being invested in the force’s hi-tech crime unit, whose officers search computers for abuse images, and that extra resources had been put into a number of services responsible for child protection in the county.

Mrs Mulligan claimed that the failure of agencies in Rotherham to communicate with each other could not happen in North Yorkshire, which has a “strategic sub-group” of local officials led by one of the county’s top police officers looking at the problem.

She added: “It is true to say that there is the potential that some victims are yet to be identified.

“I don’t think anyone working in these areas would be complacent enough to say ‘this is completely nailed’. It is a dynamic picture that relies on real time intelligence and is changing on a day-to-day basis.

“The most important thing is making sure we have the systems in place to make sure the dynamic intelligence is acted on in the proper way.”

Mrs Mulligan claimed that Scarborough and York both had some pockets of deprivation where there were more likely to be children in care and families on the Government’s “troubled families” programme, meaning there were likely to be higher numbers of vulnerable victims.

Earlier this year, a former mayor of Scarborough, Peter Jaconelli, was stripped of his civic honours after police revealed he would be interviewed under caution over alleged child sex offences if he were still alive. He was the mayor of the seaside resort in the 1970s before he died in 1999.

Meanwhile, Professor Jay and Paul Lakin, the leader of Rotherham Council, are among those who are expected to appear in front of MPs today as part of an independent inquiry into child sex abuse in the South Yorkshire town.

The Communities and Local Government Committee plans to examine “the extent and nature of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham”, while also analysing the council’s response and the extent to which the abuse in the town may be symptomatic of a wider problem facing local authorities across England.