South Yorkshire Police hits back at Times article
The Times’ suggestion that South Yorkshire Police and its partners have been reluctant to tackle child sexual abuse is wrong.
South Yorkshire Police is recognised as leading the way on what is now being recognised nationally as a problem and to suggest that the force and its partners are deliberately withholding information on the issue is a gross distortion and unfair on the teams of dedicated specialists working to tackle this problem.
In 2008, South Yorkshire Police successfully investigated a group of offenders who were exploiting young girls in Rotherham, resulting in prison sentences of 32-and-a-half years, seen nationally as one of the best prosecutions for child sexual exploitation offences.
The Force is working with local authorities, social services and NHS on several live investigations, two of which are large and likely to lead to more prosecutions; we will act when we have the evidence. The Times is completely wrong to suggest a lack of commitment is shown towards the problem as our record shows.
The Times is also wrong to suggest that failure to prosecute offenders is a breach of the Force’s duty to protect vulnerable children. Safeguarding is not just about prosecution, which is ultimately a decision for the Crown Prosecution Service; South Yorkshire Police’s priority is the wellbeing of the child involved and of the child’s parents/guardians. No investigation is undertaken to the detriment of a child’s wellbeing. Saving children from exploitation is the top priority.
These cases are massively complex and need long and painstaking investigative work and obtaining the evidence necessary from young and vulnerable girls can be extremely difficult.
South Yorkshire Police is recognised as a leading force in safeguarding vulnerable children and prosecuting offenders. Since the late 1980s South Yorkshire Police has had dedicated child abuse teams. More recently these have been significantly strengthened to focus on the emerging theme of child sexual exploitation as national understanding of the problem has developed.
Sheffield is leading the country in dealing with child sex abuse. South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield City Council and various charities set up the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service in 2001 to prevent vulnerable people becoming victims and protect those who might be targets for exploitation.
Following the visit of a national inquiry team investigating the sexual exploitation of children in gangs and groups to the Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service, Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children’s Commissioner, said how impressed she was by the ‘complex and difficult work undertaken’ adding how pleasing it was ‘to see the extent of inter-agency cooperation at Sheffield Sexual Exploitation Service.’ Having met with some of the young people who have benefited from the Service, Sue Berelowitz also stated, ‘It is clear that the project has made a significant difference to their lives, enabling them to break free of the terrible web of abuse in which they had become enmeshed.’