Sheffield & South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire Police deny hiding girls' sex abuse

Denis MacShane
Image caption Denis MacShane said MPs should have been told of the scale of the problem

A police force has denied withholding information about the scale of sexual exploitation of girls by gangs of men in South Yorkshire.

The county's force was responding after The Times said confidential police reports referred to widespread abuse of girls by Asian men.

Rotherham MP Denis MacShane said police kept secret the abuse from politicians.

South Yorkshire Police said the suggestion it was reluctant to tackle child sexual abuse was wrong.

In November 2010, five Rotherham men were jailed for sexual offences against under-age girls.

Labour MP Mr MacShane said on Monday: "The Rotherham police exposed, arrested and broke up an evil gang of internal traffickers who were sent to prison.

"But it is clear that the internal trafficking of barely pubescent girls is much more widespread and I regret that the police did not tell Yorkshire MPs about their inquiries."

The investigation by The Times - with access to confidential documents from the police intelligence bureau, social services and other organisations - alleges widespread abuse.

'Live investigations'

The newspaper said a confidential 2010 report by the Police Intelligence Bureau detailed "a significant problem with networks of Asian males exploiting young white females, particularly in Rotherham and Sheffield".

The paper claimed that in another confidential report in 2010 from Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board "there are sensitivities of ethnicity with potential to endanger the harmony of community relationships".

Mr MacShane said the sexual violation and commercial exploitation of young girls by older men was a "growing problem and needs far more public policy attention".

Image caption Five men were jailed in 2010 for sex offences against girls as young as 12 in Rotherham

In a statement, the force said: "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 the problem."

It said the force was "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 statement added that The Times was "wrong to suggest a lack of commitment is shown towards the problem as our record shows".

In a statement Rotherham Borough Council said it was "fully committed" to tackling sexual exploitation, "a commitment that led to the conviction of men involved in this despicable crime as well as support for victims and potential victims and the education of hundreds of young people about the dangers of sexual exploitation".

"These are highly-complex cases and situations and some work with individuals did not lead to court cases for a variety of reasons, but those young people have been supported to understand the situation they have found themselves in and assisted by many services".

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