South Yorkshire Police have missed “intelligence and investigative opportunities” over child sex grooming in recent years, according to a report by the agency described as ‘the British FBI’.
A review of the force’s three current investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham by the National Crime Agency has led to 48 recommendations being made for how the force tackles the problem in future.
The agency has taken over the day-to-day running over one of the probes and has urged an independent review to be carried out into three previous investigations, two of which resulted in no prosecutions.
The NCA was brought in last year by chief constable David Crompton to oversee and review all current investigations into historic child sex grooming in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 being carried out by South Yorkshire Police.
The agency’s review team found that officers and staff working on the three Operations, dubbed Clover, Monroe and Mark, are “conscientious, enthusiastic and focused upon providing good outcomes”. It added that the force’s current strategic leadership was “professional and appropriate”.
But the NCA said in a statement today: “Over the years, intelligence and investigative opportunities in relation to child sexual exploitation have been overlooked by South Yorkshire Police.”
It added that its reviewers agreed with the finding’s of this year’s damning report by Louise Casey that the force did not use alternative measures to gather evidence or protect victims or work effectively with Rotherham council.
The NCA’s report, presented to the force earlier this month, has made 48 recommendations “for further improvement at both strategic and operational levels”.
The review is phase one of the agency’s Operation Stovewood, an independent investigation examining criminal allegations of non-familial child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.
Two of South Yorkshire Police’s current investigations into CSE, Clover and Monroe, will be managed by force on a day-to-day basis but co-ordinated under Operation Stovewood. The agency said these two probes were “making good progress and have existing links with victims and witnesses”.
A third, Operation Mark, was found not to be as well developed and will be taken forward under the leadership of NCA Senior Investigating Officer Steve Baldwin.
The NCA added: “There may be further opportunities to pursue offenders from other previous South Yorkshire Police investigations.
“The Review recommends that South Yorkshire Operation’s Central, Czar and Chard are also independently reviewed, to identify any potential for further action and also any valuable learning from these investigations. Two of these operations did not result in any cases of CSE being put before a court.”
NCA Director Trevor Pearce, the officer in overall charge of Operation Stovewood, said: “A review of these three investigations has identified improvements that need to be made at both strategic and operational level. Many of the issues identified by the review team have already been addressed by the force or work is in hand to do so.
“I have discussed the recommendations with South Yorkshire Police and I am confident that we now have a foundation from which to deliver a set of consistent, victim-focused and coordinated investigations to identify, disrupt and bring to justice those responsible for harming vulnerable individuals in Rotherham within the period covered by the Alexis Jay Report.
“South Yorkshire Police has already made a number of arrests in relation to these matters and other offenders who believe that their past actions will never catch up with them should think again.”
Chief Constable David Crompton said: “The independent review of three South Yorkshire Police investigations into non-recent allegations of child sexual exploitation was something I requested as part of the NCA’s investigation to ensure transparency and openness.
“The review found that the force had made a number of improvements and that staff working on the investigations were conscientious and focused and that strategic leadership was professional and appropriate.
“This highlights the significant progress the force has made in protecting vulnerable people and tackling child sexual exploitation.
“We have dedicated officers working tirelessly to support the victims and bring the offenders to justice and have made a number of arrests as part of these investigations.
“However, the NCA has made a number of recommendations for further improvements.
“We accept these recommendations and, as the NCA have recognised, the force has already addressed many of these and put steps in place to ensure other issues are dealt with in a timely manner.”