Detectives IN Leeds have reviewed as many as 200 old cases as part of investigations into historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the city.
A trawl of intelligence databases, past crime reports and missing persons reports in the wake of the Rotherham inquiry into historic abuse led police to contact dozens of potential victims.
Police were supported in some of the most sensitive cases by a charity based in the city which is carrying out groundbreaking work to support historic victims.
Initially funded as a 12-month pilot by the Home Office, Basis Yorkshire’s advocacy and support scheme has a waiting list of women seeking its help as it enters its second year.
Taylor Austin-Little, who worked on the pilot, said: “We were working with some women in their late 30s and 40s. They have had that baggage with them for 30-odd years.
“Some cases have been fully investigated and the police can’t do more, but it was enough for the women to be believed and listened to now.”
Some have lived chaotic lives, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as a result of their experiences. Others now have children of their own and are happily married, with their loved ones totally unaware of the troubles they have carried alone for decades.
Using £52,400 in Home Office funding, Basis Yorkshire was able to appoint Miss Austin-Little to lead a 12-month pilot scheme offering an independent advocacy and support service to 16 of these women.
Miss Austin-Little said: “Imagine you have had years of bottling up this and everyone telling you this was your choice, and then you realise it wasn’t. You are very vulnerable.”
The women, aged between 20 and 43, included some of those approached by police as part of Operation Applehall, the investigation reviewing potential historic CSE cases in the city.
Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, Head of Crime for Leeds District, said: “Those we identified as potential victims were contacted either through visits or by letter as part of our efforts to identify any offences and ensure suitable safeguarding measures were put in place.
“A number of the visits saw police officers accompanied by specially-trained staff from support agency Basis who also conducted many of the visits independently.
“The specialist support that Basis was able to provide to the operation was absolutely invaluable and clearly illustrates how important the role of the third sector agencies is on sensitive issues such as this.”
He said the operation had not unearthed any significant issues, but protecting the victims of CSE remained a priority.
As the charity’s pilot scheme began to take shape, it soon became clear that they were venturing into a new area of work.
Miss Austin-Little said: “I wanted to look nationally to who I could learn from and what became very apparent was this was very pioneering. It’s very brave what they did, I think, to fund us.”
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has funded the project for a second year with Jo Hall recently taking over as advocacy support worker.
It means women who took part in the pilot can keeping receiving support if needed and others on the waiting list can now be offered the chance to get involved.
The priority for the charity now is funding for future years so other victims can be supported.