A full-scale inspection of South Yorkshire Police has been ordered in the wake of new damning claims about the force failing to tackle child sexual exploitation in Sheffield.
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings is in discussions with the Home Office about the scope of the inspection.
He ordered it today following a meeting with police chiefs, Sheffield Council officials and Sheffield MPs after former police officers made damning accusations about a lack of police action on child sex abuse in Sheffield.
Leaked police documents reveal South Yorkshire Police had a database of 200 names of victims and 320 offenders, covering 2007-2010.
But ex-officers claim police chiefs focused on tackling crimes with Home Office targets, including burglary, instead of child sexual exploitation.
The revelations come in the wake of the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham, where an independent report commissioned to look at the scale of the problem found 1,400 children were abused in the town over 16 years while authorities turned a blind eye.
A Government ordered inspection of Rotherham Council, carried out by Louise Casey, concluded that the local authority was ‘not fit for purpose’ and that South Yorkshire Police should be subjected to the same level of scrutiny.
Sheffield MP Clive Betts today echoed those views.
Dr Billings said: “Public confidence in South Yorkshire Police has been severely damaged by these most recent allegations that the force failed to listen to hundreds of abused young people in Sheffield as we know they failed in Rotherham.
“If I am to do my job, I need to be sure that everything that can reasonably be known about the past is known. This is the first and crucial step if the force is to get itself into a better place.
“However, in the light of what has now been revealed I cannot be certain that we are at that point.
“Reluctantly, therefore, I now believe that a full ‘Casey-like’ county-wide inspection of South Yorkshire Police is necessary to get to an accepted understanding about the past and whether things have changed - which is the first step to restoring public confidence.
“I believe the only authorities that can commission such an inspection are the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Home Secretary.
“I met with a group of Sheffield MPs, the Chief Constable and Sheffield City Council this morning and my office is having urgent discussions with the Home Office to agree on how this inspection should proceed.
“The inspection needs to be thorough but not drawn out, sufficiently resourced, and recognise the investigations currently being conducted by the Independent Police Complaints’ Commission and National Crime Agency.
“The inspection needs to proceed alongside work the force is already doing with partners to address recommendations in the Professor Jay and Louise Casey reports. It also needs to
work alongside the group I have established to listen to the views of victims, survivors and their families which I am feeding into the force in relation to reports of CSE now.
“If anyone has any information to help identify perpetrators of child sexual exploitation across South Yorkshire, or if anyone would like to talk about their experiences as a
police officer, former officer or employee of the force, I would ask them to come forward. They will be listened to and taken seriously.”