Top detective says South Yorkshire Police has 'moved forward massively' from past CSE failings

DS Laura Taylor and DCI Joanne Bates
DS Laura Taylor and DCI Joanne Bates

South Yorkshire Police has 'moved forward massively' from the past failings of child sexual exploitation cases, a top detective has said.

South Yorkshire Police has 'moved forward massively' from the past failings of child sexual exploitation cases, a top detective has said.

Rotherham was at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal

Rotherham was at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal

That's the view of Detective Chief Inspector Joanne Bates speaking alongside the NSPCC and Sheffield Futures on National Child Exploitation Awareness Day.

In August 2014, a damning report stated 1,400 girls in Rotherham had been sexually exploited in the town, with local authorities failing to take the issue seriously.

The force now has dedicated CSE teams in each local authority in South Yorkshire and has provided robust training for officers to spot the signs.

One officer leading the Rotherham CSE team echoed DCI Bates' views and said previous work with other agencies was 'disjointed' but there is now 'unity'.

The NSPCC has been leading a campaign called 'It's Not Okay' in partnership with charity Sheffield Futures, the Local Safeguarding Children's Board, Sheffield Council and South Yorkshire Police.

Read more: What is CSE and how to spot the signs: Charities and police work together to raise awareness

The 'preventative' campaign launched in May 2017 after the NSPCC were invited in to work closely together with others raising awareness among parents, young people, professionals and the public about what child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation is, how to spot the signs and where to go for help and support.

Speaking at South Yorkshire Police's main base at Carbrook in Sheffield, DCI Bates said CSE is a 'top priority' for the force.

"The force has moved forward massively from past failings and what happened in the past - we accept we've learnt lessons," she said.

"We now have dedicated teams in relation to vulnerability and dealing with CSE - multi-agency safeguarding hubs in all four areas of South Yorkshire. Awareness has always been raised among our own staff and externally, we encourage everybody to report CSE if they have any concerns and they will be taken seriously and it will be dealt with.

"CSE is happening, it's happening in all areas nationally, not just in South Yorkshire we need to be alive to that.

"I don't think anybody is under the impression that it's not happening."

Laura Taylor is the detective sergeant in one of those specialist CSE teams in Rotherham. She deals exclusively in child sexual exploitation in the town and is working with the National Crime Agency.

The town is still under the spotlight after the revelations in a report by Professor Alexis Jay which found 1,400 children were abused by gangs of men, mainly of Pakistani origin, from 1997 to 2013.

Leading this 'very busy team', they will act upon referrals from a variety of external agencies and officers on the ground. They will visit someone they suspect is a victim of CSE along with social workers from Rotherham Council.

"CSE in the nature of it is generally that young people don't feel they are often want to disclose at that time, so we work with our partners in some longer term engagement work with that young person," she said.

When asked if the public's perceptions about South Yorkshire Police and CSE had changed, she said: "I'd to think so, we absolutely have recognised that things needed to change and even in a few years, there's been a significant change and that's reflected in the work we put on.

"We have a exceptional relationship with our partners and previously, I don't think we had that and it was perhaps disjointed but now we have that unity.

"I'm not saying there isn't work to do but we recognise we are seeking to learn and evolve together."

DCI Bates added: "If you've become involved in a relationship and you're not happy with certain elements of it, speak to somebody, anybody you trust and they will bring that to the authorities."