UK

Rotherham PC 'failed to act on abuse case'

PC Hassan Ali
Image caption PC Hassan Ali, who died in February, had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission

A police officer called to a child abuse case in Rotherham failed to investigate it, a victim has said.

PC Hassan Ali, who died this year, is said to have failed to get a statement from the victim or her mother.

An independent report last year found 1,400 children had been abused in the town between 1997 and 2013.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating at least 42 South Yorkshire officers over alleged failures in dealing with the cases.

The men who abused 12-year-old Lisa (not her real name) boasted that they would not be investigated.

"They didn't care," she told the BBC's Panorama programme.

"They knew that somewhere they had help to cover up their tracks because they said plenty of times that certain police officers would help them."

Complaints

After two days, Lisa's mother found the flat in which her daughter had been locked and abused and asked a local policeman to help her escape.

Lisa told Panorama: "The police officer walked in and shined a torch because there was no electric and shined the torch towards me and said, 'She's here, come on.'

"If I [had] walked in and I saw that, it would have been obvious [what had been happening]."

The officer, PC Hassan Ali, "just asked if we wanted a lift home", Lisa told the programme.

"My mum said, 'No,' and he basically asked my mum if she wanted to do a statement. And because she was working next morning, she said that she couldn't do anything there and then.

"And he said he'd get back to her about it, and he never did."

Two people have made complaints against PC Ali, and he had been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

A few months ago, he died after being hit by a car, in what was described by police as a tragic accident.

Image caption Dr Angie Heal says about 90 people received her 2006 report warning of sexual abuse of minors in Rotherham

The programme has also learned that a 2006 report warning of the child abuse and trafficking of young girls in South Yorkshire was sent to about 90 people in different agencies, including the police force.

High-ranking police officers were among those who were forwarded copies of the report, by Dr Angie Heal, who was working as a drugs analyst for South Yorkshire Police .

"There were two in Sheffield and one in Rotherham at that time, and it went to two officers, senior officers within the senior command team of South Yorkshire Police," she said.

The force's chief constable at the time, Meredydd Hughes, told MPs he had not seen any of her reports.

Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee in September 2014, Mr Hughes said he had "singularly failed" victims of child abuse in the town but he had not seen Dr Heal's reports and had had "no understanding of the scale and the scope of the problems that have come to light".

Fake helpline

The failure to act on Dr Heal's warnings is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

South Yorkshire Police says it is now in a "very different position" to where it was and is working with other agencies to "strengthen the support" it gives victims and survivors.

One of those abused as a child told the programme that she had initially been groomed for abuse by men by Shafina Ali, a white woman who told people she had converted to Islam.

This name also appears in documents, seen by Panorama, which describes Shafina Ali - who may have used up to four different names - as an associate of men viewed as key abusers.

She worked for taxi firms in Rotherham and was said to be trying to set up a cab company to transport schoolchildren.

A former Rotherham social worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the programme that she had been newly qualified when she had first been told about Shafina Ali.

"I was given the information that this particular woman was dangerous and that she had set up a fake rape crisis centre," she said.

"I believe it was in Sheffield or on the outskirts of Sheffield and that she was potentially luring young girls through this rape crisis centre."

Image caption An independent report found 1,400 children had been abused in the town between 1997 and 2013

Panorama has been told that it had involved a fake helpline, which was closed down in 1999.

But two years later, Rotherham social workers were worried that Shafina Ali was again targeting vulnerable girls.

The social worker said Shafina Ali "was quite aggressive with me" when called to a meeting.

"I was quite worried, I was quite frightened of her really," she added.

She said front-line staff had done their best, raising concerns about Shafina Ali at strategy meetings with police and senior council officials.

"What happened after we'd expressed our concerns in these strategy meetings and given all this information, we had no idea what was happening with that information," she told the programme.

Rotherham Council says it cannot comment because of ongoing investigations. It has accepted past failings and apologised to victims. The council is now being run by government-appointed commissioners.

Panorama has found Shafina Ali's death certificate, which says she died in 2009, aged 51.

Panorama - Stolen Childhoods: The Legacy of Grooming is on BBC One (except Wales) at 20:30 BST on Monday 15 June and available later via BBC iPlayer.

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