Police chiefs in South Yorkshire have admitted ‘more needs to be done’ to support victims of child sexual exploitation.
They spoke out following the publication of Louise Casey’s damning report on her inspection of Rotherham Council, which found the council was ‘in denial’ about the scale of child sexual exploitation in the town.
The report said: “This inspection revealed past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of child sexual exploitation, resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators.”
It found that the council ‘demonstrates a resolute denial of what has happened in the borough’ including a denial of knowledge of the ‘scale and scope’ of child sexual exploitation, blaming others, and denial that the issue remains a serious problem in present day Rotherham.
The report found the council has ‘a culture of covering up uncomfortable truths, silencing whistleblowers and paying off staff rather than dealing with difficult issues’.
But, although focused on the council, the report was also damning about South Yorkshire Police’s inaction over child sexual exploitation.
The report said: “There were numerous occasions in which girls were not believed.
“They were threatened with wasting police time, they were told they had consented to sex and, on occasion, they were arrested at the scene of a crime, rather than the perpetrators.
“Police did not understand the terror which many victims lived in and their consequent fear of testifying and their anxiety over whether police could protect them.
“Some of the crimes we were made aware of included rape with a broken bottle and girls being ordered to kiss perpetrators’ feet at gunpoint.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We are still assessing the findings of the Louise Casey report and are absolutely committed to supporting the victims of Child Sexual Exploitation, but recognise that more needs to be done.
“We will adopt the good practice and recommendations identified by the Commissioners’ victims and survivors panel to build on the progress made to date.
“We want to reassure the public that prosecuting offenders remains a top priority for the force.
“South Yorkshire Police officers engaged with Louise Casey and her review team throughout her inquiry and we have made a firm commitment to meet with her in the near future to discuss her findings in further detail.
“We are considering the recommendations of the report carefully to see how we can improve further.”