South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings promised that more people will be prosecuted for subjecting children to sex abuse after expanding the county force’s public protection units.
A report by Professor Alexis Jay into the scandal revealed that more than 1,400 children had been subjected to child sexual exploitation in the town between 1997 and 2013.
The damning report criticised the way South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council dealt with complaints from teenage girls who said they had been raped and trafficked by gangs of mainly Asian men.
Dr Billings told Phil Williams on BBC Radio 5 live that more staff are being drafted in to bring the perpetrators of the crimes to justice. The extra workers will be made up of 43 police officers and 19 support staff.
He said: “There have been prosecutions, there are going to be some more prosecutions. I’m increasing the number of people who are involved in child sexual exploitation investigations so there will be further prosecutions.”
Pressed on how many additional officers are being brought in, he added: “Just over 60 additional people we’re putting in. That’s in addition to numbers that have already been put in during the course of the last year. But this year there will be another 62 being trained.”
But he warned it would be “immensely difficult” to piece the cases together and bring them to court.
He said: “Often the people who have been victims in the past, who were the victims of grooming, wouldn’t recognise that they were being groomed at the time, some of them don’t recognise it now.
“Some want prosecutions, some just want to go and live their lives and not have it all raked up.
“So it’s very complicated and very difficult and requires a lot of sensitivity on the part of those officers who are investigating.”
In a statement released today, Dr Billings said he was allocating an extra £2.3 million “to tackle the increasing workload and responsibility in areas such as domestic abuse, management of sex offenders, child sexual exploitation, child abuse and online protection referrals”.
The money will come from the force’s 2015/16 budget after the issue was made a priority by the newly-elected crime commissioner, meaning savings will have to be found elsewhere.
Dr Billings said: “Protecting vulnerable people is a priority within my Police and Crime Plan. It will provide additional investigators into all areas of public protection, including adding resilience to the central child exploitation team, increasing their capacity to deal with complex and serious investigations.
“This investment will strengthen the unit with specially trained staff and provide much needed funds to tackle the significant increase in reported crime in areas around violence towards vulnerable people in sexual assault, rape, stalking and harassment.
“It will also enhance and support the dedicated staff that South Yorkshire Police has working to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
As part of the move, child abuse and vulnerable adult abuse investigators will be based alongside ‘partners’ such as charities and council teams in local offices, rather than being at one central location.
Last February, previous police commissioner Shaun Wright said he wanted to move 100 officers into South Yorkshire Police’s public protection units in the next two years at a cost of £5 million after pledging to “protect those most vulnerable in society”.