South Yorkshire Police crime recording criticised in new report

Rotherham Image copyright Dave Bevis
Image caption A report published on Tuesday said at least 1,400 Rotherham children were sexually abused between 1997 and 2013

The police force at the centre of the Rotherham child abuse scandal is still failing to record crimes against children properly, a report has said.

South Yorkshire Police's public protection unit spent a "great deal of time" trying to "disprove" allegations, said HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

It said the force's public protection unit showed "a disregard for victims".

A separate report on Tuesday found a "collective failure" by the authorities to stop child abuse in Rotherham.

That inquiry, by Professor Alexis Jay, said at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited from 1997-2013, mainly by gangs of men of Pakistani heritage.

The new investigation, which saw HMIC inspectors visit South Yorkshire Police in February, threatened to put more pressure on police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright.

He has so far resisted calls to resign as commissioner, with David Cameron and Nick Clegg the latest politicians to call for him to go. He has quit the Labour Party.

'Offences not recorded'

Mr Wright was the councillor responsible children's services at Rotherham Borough Council between 2005 and 2010 .

In a statement, Mr Wright said he had "formally" tendered his resignation from the Labour Party.

But he insisted he was the most appropriate person to hold the office of police and crime commissioner (PCC).

Image copyright South Yorkshire PCC
Image caption Shaun Wright has so far resisted pressure to resign from his post as police commissioner

The HMIC report said South Yorkshire Police's public protection unit (PPU) had a cultural "disregard for victims".

It criticised the unit for under-recording crime, highlighting the impact this had on vulnerable children who had been victims of sexual assault.

The HMIC looked at 117 crimes that should have been recorded, but found that only 89 had been.

Of those, three were wrongly classified. The report highlighted "a serious need for improvement in the accuracy and timeliness of crime recording decisions".

It said: "There is an inherent risk that a significant number of reported offences of a serious nature have not been recorded and that vulnerable victims have, as a consequence, been left unprotected or at risk of further offending."

The force welcomed the HMIC report, but it said it was important to note it was about the recording of crime and not the way it was investigated.

"We recognise that systems need improving and there is a programme in place to do so, including IT and the force's public protection unit stand-alone system," the statement said.


Mike Sergeant, local government correspondent

Rotherham isn't alone in facing the distressing problem of child sexual abuse. But the report exposed a deeply dysfunctional system here.

The council insists things have improved significantly in recent years. Many, though, are still shocked that efforts to confront exploitation fell woefully short.

Was there a particular problem specific to Rotherham? Did Labour's total dominance of this authority allow a complacent, rotten culture to develop? Was the political opposition so enfeebled that effective challenge to the leadership was striking by its absence?

As people here reflect on these political questions, it's worth thinking for a moment about the complex, corporate identity of modern councils. Social workers report to safeguarding managers, child protection co-ordinators, directors of services, and chief executives. All overseen by 63 elected councillors.

Such a complex web of relationships. So many different chains of command - making true accountability very hard to establish.

South Yorkshire Police is already under scrutiny after Professor Jay's report criticised police for not making child sexual exploitation (CSE) a priority and "regarding many child victims with contempt".

The force currently has 173 "live" investigations into suspected CSE.

The number includes 32 probes in Rotherham, a spokeswoman for the force said.

Supt Jason Harwin said that in the last 12 months in Rotherham 15 people had been prosecuted or charged with CSE-related offences.

Neighbouring West Yorkshire Police has revealed there are currently 65 cases of CSE being investigated in the county.

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