Yorkshire MP frustrated that police won't release child sex abuse data

An MP campaigning for an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Bradford said it is “frustrating” that West Yorkshire Police will not reveal how many incidents officers have dealt with over the last five years.

West Yorkshire Police has refused to reveal how many incidents of child sexual exploitation it has dealt with in Bradford over the last five years

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the force said it cannot say how many of these offences have been committed in Bradford, the nature of each offence, and the number of arrests and convictions which have been recorded, as criminals could use the information to their advantage.

Robbie Moore, MP for Keighley and Ilkley, said it is “frustrating” that the force will not answer “perfectly reasonable questions”, especially as the answers would not identify any victims or put them at risk of harm.

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He added: “Their response in my mind just illustrates the challenge we have before us. The police need to be prepared to be scrutinised and answer basic questions.

Robbie Moore has been campaigning for an independent local inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Bradford

“This is exactly why we need a full, Rotherham-style inquiry so we can get to grips on these horrific issues which still haunt our communities so we can ensure we get justice for victims and properly work together to protect the most vulnerable in our society."

West Yorkshire Police stated: “Disclosing this information at district level would enable the criminal fraternity to calculate where West Yorkshire Police is perceived to provide more focus on CSE (child sexual exploitation) and those intent on doing so would relocate their criminal activity accordingly to avoid detection.”

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It added: “CSE can be a highly emotive crime and there is a strong public interest in understanding this within local areas and communities across West Yorkshire. Whilst disclosing the requested information would provide a better public understanding it would also diminish public trust in West Yorkshire Police.”

Mr Moore politician has been calling for an inquiry, similar to the one led by Professor Alexis Jay in Rotherham in 2014, since an independent review published by The Bradford Partnership in the summer found that some children "remain unprotected” and the response of some agencies is “not yet good enough in all cases”.

The Conservative MP told Parliament in October a “small minority of largely Pakistani Muslim men” are responsible for the exploitation and a thorough investigation is needed to “grasp the scale of the problem”.

But Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, has said a resource-intensive local inquiry is not necessary, as the council is working to protect children and improve its response to exploitation.

Figures released by the council show 339 children in Bradford have been identified as being at risk of child sexual exploitation in 2021, up from 320 the previous year.

The council said all children are assessed by a social worker and a detailed risk assessment is completed and reviewed daily by a panel, which includes a police officer and health, education and exploitation specialists.

The council's Children’s Services department was deemed to be inadequate by Ofsted in 2018 and the watchdog has conducted six monitoring visits since then, but found it has failed to make the necessary improvements and criticised the “slow pace of change”.

Inspectors said the department’s response to child sexual exploitation was “a strength”, after the 2018 inspection, but a high turnover of social workers and managers had left children “at risk of significant harm”.

The Government has appointed commissioner Steve Walker to work with Children’s Service, but if he is not satisfied that the necessary improvements have been made by January, then the council could lose control of the department.