Rotherham abuse scandal: IOPC probe into alleged police corruption and misconduct complete - but publication delayed

A seven-year investigation into alleged police corruption and misconduct linked to the Rotherham abuse scandal has concluded - but there is no date for when the findings will be published.

South Yorkshire Police's conduct during the Rotherham abuse scandal has been subject to a long-running investigation.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct launched Operation Linden into the conduct of South Yorkshire Police in relation to the scandal in 2014 and it has grown to become the second biggest inquiry in the organisation’s history after its probe into the Hillsborough disaster involving the same force.

The operation covers 91 investigations into police conduct in the town between the years 1997 to 2013.

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The IOPC said today that publication of its overall findings will only take place after South Yorkshire Police have concluded a gross misconduct hearing which is linked to the operation. The hearing is yet to be scheduled but the force said today it is “currently progressing towards setting a date” after appointing a legally-qualified chair to the case.

An IOPC spokesperson said: “We are unable to publish our overarching report until this hearing has been held.”

In early 2016 following the conclusion of a trial of a Rotherham grooming gang which had heard multiple serious allegations about police conduct made by victims in the case, a statement by the IOPC at the time confirmed it was looking at “allegations from a failure to act on reported child sexual exploitation to corruption by police officers”.

That trial and multiple court cases which have followed since then came after the 2014 publication of the Jay report, which found there had been at least 1,400 victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over a 13-year-period in which police had treated victims “with contempt”.

In March 2017, the IOPC revealed that nine investigations linked to the scandal had ended with ‘no case to answer’ despite serious failings being uncovered.

In July 2018, the operation was expanded to investigate the role of senior police commanders and whether there was a failure “in their statutory duty to protect children between 1997 and 2013”.

Details of some of the operation’s findings have already been made public by complainants.

In January 2020, it was revealed that the IOPC had upheld six complaints from one woman abused as a child for several years from 2003 onwards.

According to a leaked report first reported by The Times, the watchdog said it was “very clear that you were sexually exploited by Asian men” and found police were aware of suspects but “took insufficient action to prevent you from harm”.

In November 2020, another strand of the operation found grooming gang ringleader Arshid Hussain, who was jailed in 2016, had previously been left free to target girls in the town.

In March this year, DC Ian Hampshire became the first officer to face a disciplinary hearing relating to the Rotherham scandal.

He admitted gross misconduct in failing to properly investigate allegations made by a teenage girl that she had been raped by multiple men in the town in 2007. A disciplinary panel said he should be issued with a final written warning rather than being dismissed after ruling he should not be held personally accountable for the “systemic failings” of the force at the time.

The IOPC said today a further misconduct hearing still has to take place before its findings are published.

A spokesperson said: “Our priority throughout Operation Linden has, and always will be, the welfare of the many survivors of child sexual abuse who have taken the difficult step to make complaints about police. They have shown a great deal of bravery both prior to and throughout our investigation and we must be respectful of the experiences they have gone through. As their individual cases have concluded, we have provided them with a personal update on our findings and continued to support their welfare.

“We have now completed 91 separate investigations which have formed Operation Linden. One outstanding hearing for gross misconduct remains and we are waiting for a date to be scheduled by South Yorkshire Police. We are unable to publish our overarching report until this hearing has been held. Our priority is also to fully update the survivors we have been engaging with before we share any further details.

“After all linked proceedings have concluded we intend to publish an over-arching report covering all of our findings, outcomes and the systemic issues we identified from our work on Operation Linden. These will form the basis of our recommendations to South Yorkshire Police and any broader learning for policing practice.”

Force 'has taken huge strides' on CSE

Following the conclusion of the misconduct case involving DC Hampshire earlier this year, South Yorkshire Police issued a statement saying it has taken a series of steps to improve standards in recent years.

It said: “Since the findings of the Jay Report, which led to this investigation, the force has taken huge strides in understanding and investigating CSE to ensure victims of a sexual offences can have confidence that when they feel able to raise the alarm, South Yorkshire Police officers are ready to respond.

“In recent years, we have delivered extensive training to all of our officers, partner agencies and businesses where there may be opportunities to spot CSE and intervene. We have restructured our teams to reflect demand and to ensure specialist officers are well placed to address any emerging issues. We have also worked with partner agencies to ensure appropriate reporting mechanisms are in place and anyone reporting a sexual offence is supported with compassion and professionalism.”

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