INVESTIGATORS looking into police officers’ roles in the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal have identified “potential misconduct”, according to the police watchdog.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct’s (IOPC) inquiry into South Yorkshire Police’s response to widespread child sexual exploitation over more than a decade in Rotherham “has grown significantly during the last year”, it has said.
It said its dedicated Operation Linden was now running 98 separate investigations, compared with 62 a year ago.
This includes an investigation into whether former South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright committed perjury when giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2014.
A spokesman said 45 investigation reports had so far been completed and 33 current and former police officers remain under notice that they are being investigated.
The IOPC will not reveal the results of the completed investigations until the end of the operation, when it is also expected to publish an overarching report.
But the spokesman said that “some of the investigations concluded so far have identified potential misconduct”.
The rise in the number of cases was partly attributed to new complaints and partly to the splitting of existing investigations.
The investigation was begun by the IOPC’s predecessor body, the IPCC, in November 2014, three months after Professor Alexis Jay’s report concluded more than 1,400 children had been raped, groomed and trafficked in the South Yorkshire town.
The Jay Report provoked a national outcry when it revealed that the large-scale exploitation undertaken by gangs of largely Pakistani-heritage men had been effectively ignored by police and other agencies.
IOPC Acting Deputy Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, said his team of 35 officers had so far analysed more than 15,139 documents and pieces of evidence.
He said: “Our aim is to not only highlight any conduct matters relating to individual officers but, crucially, to share our understanding of why such serious allegations often weren’t investigated and how this can be avoided in the future.”
A year ago, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings criticised the length of time the then-IPCC was taking to complete the investigation, saying it was “intolerable”.
Today, he repeated this criticism, saying victims needed to know whether there had been any failure by the officers in their cases, while officers under investigation should not “have these issues hanging over them for such a long time”.
South Yorkshire Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said so far they had been sent reports about 24 of the 45 finished investigations.
He said the force was “working closely with the IOPC to ensure we learn of any further lessons”.