A police force under the spotlight over its handling of child sex exploitation is still prioritising burglary and vehicle crime, according to a new report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that the emphasis from senior and middle local managers at South Yorkshire Police was still more focused on dealing with other crimes and must act immediately to improve its response.
It also found that intelligence teams were not fully supporting child sexual exploitation investigations and that staffing problems were hampering the investigations.
It said that these matters should be addressed ‘as a matter of urgency’.
South Yorkshire PCC Shaun Wright said there had been ‘a failure of management’ at South Yorkshire Police as he responded to the report, which he commissioned in the summer.
The HMIC inspection report did say, however, that South Yorkshire Police now showed a ‘clear commitment to enhancing the force’s response to the sexual exploitation of children’ and found ‘all the officers and staff working in child protection to be deeply committed to their work’.
But the inspectors also said these efforts have had ‘mixed success’.
Their report concluded: ‘In particular, although staff and officers were aware that tackling child sexual exploitation was a stated force priority, this has not consistently been translated into operational activity on the ground at a local (district) level.’
Mr Wright said: ‘This current situation has to change.
‘The report makes a number of recommendations, with the most urgent to be implemented immediately and others within three and six months. I fully support the recommendations and have instructed the chief constable that he must ensure they are in place within the time frames set out by the inspectors.’
‘The commitment and effort of officers and staff on the front line of this most heinous of crimes is fully appreciated by me and rightly recognised by the inspectors.
‘However, there is clearly a failure of management to turn my, and the public of South Yorkshire’s, key strategic priority into operational effectiveness uniformly across the whole force area.’
South Yorkshire Police found itself a focus of concerns about under-age teenage girls being groomed by groups of adult men for sex, particularly in the town of Rotherham.
The spotlight first fell on the town in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as ‘sexual predators’, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last three years that have revealed the exploitation of young girls in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Following the 2010 case, The Times claimed that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town had extensive knowledge of these activities for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted.
The allegations led to a range of official investigations, including one by the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Earlier this year, The Times published fresh claims that a teenager in the care of social services was allowed extensive contact with a violent adult offender who was suspected of grooming young girls to use and sell for sex.
At the same time, a South Yorkshire law firm announced that it was working on behalf of four women who want to take legal action against Rotherham Council in relation to sexual exploitation when they were teenagers.
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