An investigation into police misconduct in the Rotherham child abuse scandal has upheld a complaint from the victim in the matter that South Yorkshire Police did not respond appropriately to the incident.
Arshid Hussain, who was jailed for 35 years in 2016 for 23 offences against nine girls after being revealed as the ringleader of a child grooming gang in the town, was involved in the incident in 2000.
A 2013 South Yorkshire Police investigation had found ‘no evidence to substantiate the claims’ of the deal after it was reported by The Times.
But in the 2016 court case, the jury found Hussain guilty of abduction after hearing evidence that a now-deceased police officer called Hassan Ali had been involved in arranging for Hussain to hand over the girl in exchange for him not being prosecuted.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct has now upheld a complaint about the police handling of the incident. South Yorkshire Police has fully accepted the findings of the overarching IOPC report, which examined allegations of police misconduct during the Rotherham abuse scandal.
Its ruling on this incident said: "We upheld the survivor's report that SYP did not respond appropriately in a child abduction case which ended with the survivor being handed over to officers by the CSA/E perpetrator as part of a 'deal' not to arrest him.
"We found no evidence the police ever issued the perpetrator with a child abduction warning notice, or harbouring notice.
"We found SYP knew the perpetrator's name and address and the incident happened with the knowledge that the survivor had been found with the perpetrator on several occasions in the past.
"We identified that the incident was not fully recorded by the force or added to its intelligence system nor shared with other agencies.
"The survivor reported that SYP's dealings with them were not in line with appropriate policy and guidelines. We upheld this complaint, noting especially a general failure by SYP to properly record information about the CSA/E risk to the survivor."
Records put before the trial showed that on the day of the alleged handover, a police protection order had been put on the girl, who was pregnant with Hussain's child, to protect her from the ‘risk of significant harm’.
Records from a Family Crisis Response Team worker on the same day of the alleged handover – March 1, 2000 – said ‘They had ‘got’ her after a community policeman had done a deal and arranged to meet at a neutral venue – petrol station?’
The court was told PC Ali had denied the incident had ever happened when interviewed.
PC Ali died in 2015 following a fatal collision with a car on the same day that he had been informed he was being placed on restricted duties in relation to complaints that had been made against him. A man was subsequently found not guilty of causing death by careless driving in relation to the incident.
The IOPC's report does not go into further detail about the case or name the officer or offender involved.
But the complainant has confirmed to The Yorkshire Post that the details of the ruling relate to the incident.
She is Sammy Woodhouse, who has become one of the country's most prominent campaigners on the issue of child sexual exploitation and victims' rights after her waiving her anonymity in 2017.
While several other complaints made by Ms Woodhouse were also upheld by the IOPC, it ruled it was not possible to further explore further allegations from her that PC Ali had behaved inappropriately towards her while on duty and that he gave her a photograph of Hussain from police records.
The report said: "This was because the relevant officer had since died and there were no witnesses or an audit trail allowing us to determine whether or not a picture had been printed from police computer systems."
A separate complaint from Ms Woodhouse about another officer who she alleged had bought steroids from Hussain and also implied on an occasion when she had been arrested as a teenager that he knew was Hussain's 'girl' and "as a result, not to worry as they would look after her".
The allegations were denied but the IOPC decided there was a case to answer for gross misconduct. However, the officer resigned from the force before the end of the investigation - meaning they were not required to face a misconduct hearing.
Ms Woodhouse said she had mixed emotions about the publication of the IOPC report, which also covers complaints made by 50 other CSE survivors from Rotherham.
"I have known about my outcome ages ago but it feels like nobody is ever going to be held to account. We have evidence after evidence and report after report but there is just no accountability whatsoever," she said.
She said in contrast with Rotherham Council, where there were several high-profile departures following the publication of the Jay report in 2014 after it found at least 1,400 girls had been abused in the town over a 16-year period, there has been no effective action against South Yorkshire Police officers. The IOPC's investigations resulted in several misconduct hearings, but no police officer lost their job over the scandal.
"The police have had a lot easier time of things and there has been a lot more secrecy about it," she said.
A total of 47 current and former officers were investigated by the IOPC after it was revealed at least 1,400 girls were abused, trafficked and groomed in the town between 1997 and 2013.
But the final report, published on Wednesday, confirmed that no officer lost their job despite 265 separate allegations being made by more than 50 complainants.
South Yorkshire’s PCC, Alan Billings, said: “I am disappointed that, after eight years of very costly investigations, this report fails to make any significant recommendations over and above what South Yorkshire Police have already accepted and implemented from previous investigations some years ago.
“It repeats what past reports and reviews have shown – that there was unacceptable practice between 1997 and 2013 – but fails to identify any individual accountability.
“As a result, it lets down victims and survivors.”
Dr Billings added: “A great deal of time and money has been spent for few new findings or accountability.”
He said it is unfair that officers have had allegations of misconduct “hanging over them for so long”, but said the force is now “on a path of continuous improvement”.
South Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable Tim Forber said: “We fully accept the findings of the IOPC report which closely reflects those highlighted by Professor Alexis Jay in 2014.
“The Jay Report brought a stark reality of our failings in handling CSE. We let victims of CSE down. We failed to recognise their vulnerability and failed to see them as victims, for that I am deeply sorry. They deserved better from us.
“The brave accounts of these girls caused a seismic change in policing crimes of this nature for South Yorkshire Police and the wider police service.”
Mr Forber added: “Whilst I am confident we are a very different force today, I will not lose sight of the fact that we got it wrong and we let victims down.”
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