POLICE OFFICERS under investigation by a watchdog for alleged misconduct relating to the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal have yet to be interviewed more than a year after the probe was launched.
The conduct of more than 60 officers from the South Yorkshire force is being scrutinised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) as part of a investigation launched in the aftermath of the bombshell report by Professor Alexis Jay.
“It is a very long time and I have said before that it is intolerable to have this hanging over people.”Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire PCC
In August, the commission said it had received 47 referrals from South Yorkshire Police and these referrals involved more than 100 allegations.
South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings this summer urged the IPCC to “get on with” its investigation into his force’s officers and said he was “very concerned” by the time the inquiry was taking.
And speaking at a meeting of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, a body set up to scrutinise his work, he said none of the officers under investigation had yet been interviewed by the watchdog.
He told the meeting: “A number of allegations were made about the conduct of officers, mainly from South Yorkshire Police, in relation to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
“They were referred to the IPCC in September 2014. I think it is still true to say that none of those officers has been interviewed by the IPCC.
“It is a very long time and I have said before that it is intolerable to have this hanging over people. Each time I meet the IPCC I make that point. Some of the officers are still serving and some are retired.
“There are also victims and their families who need to know what happened.”
He said he had been told by the IPCC that they would be putting more staff into the investigation from October this year and that he hoped this would speed the process up.
According to the IPCC, the South Yorkshire Police investigation is “large and complex”, initially covering matters contained within the Jay Report before expanding to other related allegations.
Responding to Dr Billings’s comments, the IPCC said: “This is a complex investigation dealing with a significant number of complainants and police officers, and allegations relating to events that spanned a number of years.
“We are handling these matters sensitively and ensuring our investigation is thorough as that is what all parties want from any of the investigations into these matters.”
Neil Bowles of South Yorkshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “I will agree that the process is taking a long time and it does not do the force, our members nor in fact the survivors of child abuse any good for this to be delayed indefinitely.
“I am not one to defend the inadequacies of the IPCC, but it is not just a question of their lack of staff.
“Due to the success of SYP’s Operation Clover and other investigations we now have a large number of criminal proceedings under way against alleged offenders.
“These cases include historic matters that were subject to the referral to the IPCC, so they cannot investigate alleged police misconduct as it maybe sub-judice, and so have to wait for the judicial process to follow its course.
“Another reason for the delay is the multitude of enquiries by different bodies both locally and nationally. They need to set up working relationships with each other and information sharing protocols.
“Finally some of the survivors or witnesses to the abuse are, for good reasons, not easy to acquire best evidence from and it takes time to gather the evidence on which to conduct the enquiry.”
One of several criminal investigations being carried out by South Yorkshire Police into Rotherham abuse, dubbed Operation Clover, will this month see six men and two women appear in court in relation to a range of alleged offences involving 14 girls.
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: “We continue to support the IPCC in their investigation.”
The Jay report, published last August, revealed the shocking scale of child grooming in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, with 1,400 children abused as local authorities looked the other way.
The report prompted the resignation of several senior figures at Rotherham Council and eventually the departure of Shaun Wright, Dr Billings’s predecessor as crime commissioner.
This summer, the PCC launched an independent review by child protection expert Professor John Drew into how the entire South Yorkshire force approached the sexual exploitation of children.