‘Deaf to the victims’: South Yorkshire Police face full-scale probe on child grooming

SOUTH YORKSHIRE’S police tsar has ordered a full-scale inspection of the force amid accusations it failed to listen to hundreds of victims of child sex exploitation in Sheffield.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings at home in Sheffield

‘Urgent’ talks are under way between the Home Office and the office of the police and crime commissioner in the bid to set up an inquiry similar to the work of Louise Casey, which exposed the widespread abuse which took place in Rotherham while the authorities turned a blind eye.

Dr Alan Billings said the probe is needed to “restore public confidence” in officers after a leaked police document which names more than 200 girls in Sheffield who were suspected of being sexually exploited, along with a list of more 320 men who had been accused of carrying out the abuse.

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A damning testimony from a former officer said that South Yorkshire Police focused its efforts on crimes linked to Home Office targets, including car crime and burglary, between 2007 and 2010, when the offences are said to have taken place.

Two men from the city - a 23-year-old and a 33-year-old - were released on bail yesterday after being arrest as part of what senior officers described as “an ongoing investigation into a number of alleged sexual offences committed against underage girls between 2005 and 2009 in Sheffield and Rotherham”.

Referencing the inquiry which uncovered revealed the abuse of 1,400 girls Rotherham, Dr Billings promised a ‘Casey-like’ inspection.

He said: “If I am to do my job, I need to be sure that everything that can reasonably be known about the past is known. This is the first and crucial step if the force is to get itself into a better place.

“However, in the light of what has now been revealed I cannot be certain that we are at that point.

“Reluctantly, therefore, I now believe that a full county-wide inspection of South Yorkshire Police is necessary to get to an accepted understanding about the past and whether things have changed - which is the first step to restoring public confidence.”

The city’s MPs, Sheffield Council and South Yorkshire Police chief constable held a crisis meeting at the commissioner’s office yesterday in the face of mounting pressure, where it was decided that the force should face the same level of scrutiny as Rotherham, which resulted in the mass resignation of the council’s cabinet.

“I believe the only authorities that can commission such an inspection are the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Secretary,” added Mr Billings.

“My office is having urgent discussions with the Home Office to agree on how this inspection should proceed.”

Sheffield Council’s chief executive John Mothersole said: “We support the decision for a review into how police have responded to child sexual exploitation. It is, and always has been, a key priority for us and we will support the review in any way we can.

“We carried out a review of our own child sexual exploitation services, reported to our full council in January this year.”

• A FORMER detective has publicly accused South Yorkshire Police of diverting money in its budget away from child sex exploitation.

Tony Brookes reportedly asked “several times” for money to help tackle the issue but claims he was told it had gone, despite a rising number of reports of young girls suffering abuse in Sheffield.

Mr Brookes, who recently retired, told news sources he had requested £24,000 from force headquarters for an operation to tackle the problem back in 2007.

He was awarded £8,000 less, which he labelled “inadequate”.

South Yorkshire Police has denied withholding cash.