Rotherham scandal: ‘Time for decisions’ on allegations against dozens of officers

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings launches his commissioned independent review into South Yorkshire Police's handling of reports of child sexual exploitation across South Yorkshire to be conducted by professor John Drew'Picture Dean Atkins
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings launches his commissioned independent review into South Yorkshire Police's handling of reports of child sexual exploitation across South Yorkshire to be conducted by professor John Drew'Picture Dean Atkins

Action has been demanded over investigations into allegations that dozens of South Yorkshire Police officers mishandled cases linked to the Rotherham grooming scandal.

Police commissioner Alan Billings said victims and accused officers are ‘in limbo’ as they wait for decisions from the Independent Police Complaints Commission on more than 100 allegations of misconduct.

It comes as he launched a new review into the force designed to examine whether the failings in Rotherham were also repeated in Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley.

Allegations made include ‘suggestions of corrupt relationships between police officers and offenders’, as well as neglect of duty and failing to adequately investigate cases.

In August, the commission said it had received 47 referrals from South Yorkshire Police since the publication of the Jay Report and these referrals involved more than 100 allegations.

Professor Jay’s report described how more than 1,400 children were sexually exploited by gangs of mainly Asian men in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

The IPCC said a further 100 officers mentioned in complaints made to it are yet to be identified.

It said 27 officers have been advised they are under investigation.

Dr Billings made the comments as he launched an independent review by child protection expert Professor John Drew into how the entire South Yorkshire force approached the sexual exploitation of children.

Dr Billings said: “I’m very concerned that some of these have been with the IPCC for quite a long time.

“We were given the understanding that at least some reporting would come back from them in the summer.

“That didn’t happen and I understand it’s possibly next month.

“It really is important that they start to decide what’s going to happen with those who’ve been referred to them because it’s hanging over people in the force.”

The commissioner said the IPCC was deciding which of the referrals made to it that it was going to investigate itself and which it would pass back to the force to deal with.

He said: “Everybody’s in limbo until that happens so we really do need the IPCC to get on with it and start to make those reports.”

An IPCC spokesman said: “The Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation relating to CSE in South Yorkshire is ongoing.

“This is a complex investigation dealing with a significant number of complainants and police officers, and allegations relating to events that spanned a number of years.

“We are handling these matters sensitively and ensuring our investigation is thorough as that is what all parties want from any of the investigations into these matters. We are aware that the Police and Crime Commissioner has commissioned a review of South Yorkshire Police’s handling of CSE cases.

“We are confident that any evidence uncovered by the review which may be relevant to our ongoing investigations, especially any evidence of misconduct by former or current police officers or staff, will be shared with us.”

The comments came as a new review was launched into the force by Professor John Drew, a former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

It is to examine whether the failures of the force in Rotherham happened in Sheffield, Doncaster and Barnsley.

It will also try to establish whether the force’s current practices are up to the right standard.

Abuse victims and former and current police officers are being urged to contribute to the review, which is due to be completed in three months.

The review was ordered by Dr Billings in March this year after allegations were made by a former police officer that child sexual exploitation in Sheffield had been ignored by South Yorkshire Police.

Professor Drew said the review would hear from anyone but would concentrate on a similar period covered by Jay and Casey and up to the present day.

He is to be assisted in conducting the review by Peter Spindler, a former Metropolitan Police commander and Andrew Lockley, a former Head of Public Law at Sheffield legal firm Irwin Mitchell.

Dr Billings said the review would look at what happened historically and whether current practice is as good as it can possibly be.

Dr Billings said: “I regard this as a very important moment for South Yorkshire Police and for me as a commissioner as I think it is absolutely essential that we try to capture now everything that we can possibly know about CSE in South Yorkshire - and not just in Rotherham, where there has been so much focus.”

He said: “It’s absolutely essential we do this and I do think the police understand that. I recognise that morale has been affected by the sheer number of investigations and inspections that have taken place. But, unless we have this full understanding across the whole of the county, then none of us can really rest easy as we go forward.”

The independent charity Victim Support said it was ‘crucial’ the actions of the police and other agencies in South Yorkshire were examined in detail.

Lesley McLean, from the charity, said: “It is crucial that the conduct of the police and agencies that were supposed to be protecting these children is thoroughly investigated and that lessons are learnt so that this can never happen again.”

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