Child sex abuse: Inquiries into claims of police failings

A group of police officers walking

The Independent Police Complaints Commission says it is handling 187 investigations into potential police failures in dealing with past child sex abuse cases in England and Wales.

A BBC Freedom of Information request revealed 27 completed inquiries have resulted in potential disciplinary action against up to 15 officers.

Eighteen forces are the subject of complaints about the handling of abuse.

These include what the IPCC has called potential "high-level corruption".

Of the investigations, 56 cases relate to alleged failures by South Yorkshire Police in responding to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham; 46 follow allegations against the Metropolitan Police, and 58 against Essex Police.

Historical cases

Julian Blazeby, the IPCC's director of major investigations, said: "We continue to receive referrals on police actions in child sexual abuse cases from forces across the country.

"The IPCC is committed to investigating the most sensitive and serious incidents of alleged police wrongdoing and many child sexual abuse cases fall within that remit."

Some of the cases date back decades and include damaging claims that investigations were brought to a halt despite evidence of abuse being uncovered.

In Rotherham, the 2014 report by Professor Alexis Jay revealed police suppressed evidence of the widespread sexual abuse of teenagers and failed to arrest the abusers.

In London, allegations also centre on investigations being halted and evidence suppressed.

They include claims that investigations were shut down prematurely or prosecutions not pursued because the suspects were politicians.

However, in May 2016 one claim - that a prosecution was stopped when a defendant threatened to name the former prime minister, Sir Edward Heath, as an abuser - was dismissed by the IPCC.

The suggestion that the powerful have been protected by the police is far from being proven.

The current allegations span 17 English police forces and one in Wales.

There are 84 independent IPCC inquiries - in which the commission directly investigates - under way, into:

  • Avon and Somerset (Three cases)
  • Cambridgeshire (One case)
  • Cleveland (Four cases)
  • Essex (Three cases)
  • Greater Manchester (Two cases)
  • Kent (One case)
  • Leicestershire (One case)
  • Merseyside (One case)
  • Metropolitan Police (Three cases)
  • National Crime Agency (One case)
  • Northamptonshire (Two cases)
  • South Wales (One case)
  • South Yorkshire (53 cases)
  • Sussex (One case)
  • West Mercia (One case)
  • West Midlands (Four cases)
  • Wiltshire (Two cases)

There are 102 managed inquiries, in which the IPCC oversees internal police investigations, in four forces:

  • Essex (55 cases)
  • Metropolitan Police (43 cases)
  • South Yorkshire (Three cases)
  • West Mercia (One case)

There is one supervised case, in which IPCC managers monitor the internal police investigation, taking place at Norfolk Police.

The 27 completed cases have resulted in disciplinary action against two officers and disciplinary proceedings against 13 more.

The IPCC says it is liaising closely with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and Operation Hydrant, the police team co-ordinating child abuse investigations.

In an attempt to handle the increase in complex inquiries, the commission has created a new directorate of major investigations.

The National Police Chiefs' Council lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said the police service has "risen to the challenge" in changing the way it engages with victims and how it investigates abuse.

But he added: "Although we have improved our response, there is still more to do. If there is concern that a victim hasn't received a full and impartial investigation into their allegations this should be referred to the force or IPCC to be scrutinised."

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