Failed leadership, officers lacking any ‘professional curiosity’, a culture in which underage victims were seen as responsible, IT systems ‘not fit for purpose’ and a widespread failure to record and investigate serious crimes meant the horrific sexual exploitation of children continued for years unchallenged.
Among the worst examples of police behavior was an officer telling the father of a 15-year-old rape victim that her ordeal would teach her a lesson.
Another girl was handed over to police in a child abduction case as part of a ‘deal’ not to arrest the alleged abductor. Officers also found her and an abuser ‘half-naked’ in a bedroom with the girl hiding under the bed, but failed to investigate him.
One sexual abuse victim’s father said an officer told him nothing could be done due to racial tensions.
Details of the ‘significant failings’ by South Yorkshire Police were revealed yesterday in a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into police actions between 1997 and 2013 concerning the sexual exploitation of girls, mainly by Asian grooming gangs in Rotherham. Operation Linden was the second-largest inquiry ever carried out by the police watchdog.
It found a mountain of evidence detailing negligent, incompetent and unprofessional police work in handling sexual abuse of children, but officers either retired to escape punishment or were allowed to carry on in their jobs.
The IOPC spent eight years and £ 6 million on 93 investigations covering 265 allegations by 51 complainants. They investigated 47 officers and upheld 43 complaints.
Eight officers had a case to answer for misconduct and six for gross misconduct, but seven avoided disciplinary action by retiring. Despite the millions spent on the inquiry, just two officers received written warnings and three were given ‘words of advice’. The Crown Prosecution Service decided against charges in the only potential criminal case – for a data breach.
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said the report ‘fails to identify any individual accountability’ and ‘as a result it lets down victims and survivors’.
The IOPC report details dozens of complaints against the police. Many officers regarded the victims – predominantly underage white girls – as criminals.
The report said their persistent fear of the abusers was compounded by a distrust of police. Some were so traumatised by the lack of help they considered or attempted suicide. When staff dealing with sexual exploitation raised concerns, they were told policing priorities lay with other crimes such as burglary and car crime.
YOU CAN’T DEPORT ME, I’M A ROLE MODEL
A member of the Rochdale grooming gang yesterday said he shouldn’t be deported back to Pakistan because he was a ‘role model’ for his teenage son.
Adil Khan, 52, was jailed for eight years in 2012 after he got a 13-year-old girl pregnant. He was one of nine men jailed after the gang were arrested – a year before the Rotherham scandal.
To the horror of their victims, Khan and fellow abuser Qari Abdul Rauf have fought a seven-year battle to avoid being sent to Pakistan. The pair say it would breach their right to private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.
As a final deportation hearing began yesterday, an immigration judge asked Khan what impact deportation would have on his son. He replied: ‘As you know, the father figure is very important in every culture in the world, to be a role model for the child, to tell him or her right from wrong.’
Lawyers for Rauf, 53, are also expected to argue that he has renounced his Pakistani citizenship, therefore cannot be sent back there.
Khan is representing himself. The hearing continues.
The report said a common theme of complaints was how little police understood about child sexual abuse.
Many had no training to deal with the specialist area of policing and some did not understand the law. One detective constable commented at a child protection conference that a girl of 12 had consented to sexual encounters, despite the law being clear that a child of her age could not give consent.
An officer who worked in the field said that in 2008 ‘there was no concept that there was a hidden issue of children being groomed and manipulated into abuse’.
Police officers were said to ask inappropriate questions to abuse girls, such as ‘are you able to enjoy sex?’. It was also ‘accepted practice’ for child concern referrals to be written off with no action taken if there was no victim complaint.
The original Rotherham abuse report by Professor Alexis Jay, published in 2014, highlighted how authorities failed to take action against Asian suspects for fear of being a labelled racist. The IOPC investigators found that was also the view of some victims.
There was awareness among frontline officers of the high proportion of Asian men involved in the abuse reports, but there were ‘missed opportunities’ to tackle the issue by approaching community leaders.
Steve Noonan, the IOPC director of major investigations, said 13 recommendations had been made as a result of the inquiry and the law needed to be changed to ensure victims were supported and ‘not criminalized’.
He added: ‘I accept some people will be disappointed about the individual outcomes. But we have left no stone unturned to understand what went wrong, why and what has changed and what still needs to change. ‘
South Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable Tim Forber said the force was ‘very different’ today, adding: ‘The brave accounts of these girls caused a seismic change in policing crimes of this nature for South Yorkshire Police and the wider police service.’
David Greenwood, a solicitor representing 80 Rotherham victims, said the system of police complaints ‘provided zero accountability and needs reform’.
Bizarrely, the IOPC report was gender neutral, with both ‘survivors’ and ‘perpetrators’ being referred to as ‘they’ or ‘them’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’. The IOPC said this was to protect their anonymity.
Series of blunders that let sex fiends off the hook
By Chris Brooke for the Daily Mail
Yesterday’s report details many cases of astonishing police incompetence.
One teenager, who was sexually exploited for three years from 1999, was found by police half-naked with her abuser and hiding under a bed.
She was then arrested for possession of a truncheon – supposedly so she could speak freely to officers – but the incident was never followed up and the man escaped arrest for lack of evidence.
The teenager, who was abused while in care from the age of 14, recalled a separate incident in which a police constable spoke to her and an abuser in a police cell after they had been arrested. He told the man they would look after her as they knew she was his ‘girl’.
Abusers: (Left-to-right, top-to-bottom) Arshid Hussain, Basharat Hussain, Bannaras Hussain, Karen MacGregor, Shelley Davies, Qurban Ali
She said she saw the officer later buying steroids from the man.
He would have faced a hearing for gross misconduct, but avoided it by resigning.
WHY DID NO-ONE TAKE ME SERIOUSLY
Sammy Woodhouse, a victim of the Rotherham scandal, has slammed the failure to punish police officers who let down abused girls.
Now a campaigner for victims of Asian grooming gangs, she has turned her life around after years of sexual abuse during her teens.
Mother-of-two Miss Woodhouse, 36, whose tormentor Arshid Hussain was jailed for 35 years, said: ‘I’m absolutely disgusted that not one professional will ever be held to account for the sexual and criminal exploitation of myself and others in Rotherham . ‘
She was put into foster care by her parents to try and stop her relationship with Hussain, a married 24-year-old father-of-two, when the sexual abuse began at 14.
Yet because she had said at the time she was besotted with Hussain, police and social workers stood by.
She twice became pregnant by Hussain but no action was taken as the authorities deemed she consented and refused to lodge a complaint.
They regarded her as a girlfriend rather than abuse victim.
Hussain forced her to abort the first pregnancy.
She escaped her abuser at 15 when she was jailed for a violent offence.
Disgusted: Sammy Woodhouse
Another complaint was upheld concerning the police reaction to a ‘child abduction case’.
The girl ended up being handed over to officers by the perpetrator as part of a ‘deal’ not to arrest him.
The man’s name and address was known to police but the incident was not properly recorded or shared with other agencies.
The girl also claimed safe-guarding action wasn’t taken despite officers regularly stopping a car she was a passenger in, that was owned and occupied by a perpetrator.
This complaint was upheld by the IOPC. One officer suggested to the father of a 15-year-old girl who had been raped in a Rotherham park that the ordeal would ‘teach’ her a ‘lesson’.
She had significant internal injuries which required surgery and hospital staff suspected they were consistent with rape.
Despite attempts by the police to encourage her to make a complaint, she refused and would not consent to a forensic medical examination.
The IOPC said there was no evidence police made any inquiries about the suspect and missed the chance to examine clothing taken from the girl on the night of the incident.
In total, there were 21 breaches of professional standards by six officers during a two-year period when the girl was being groomed and exploited by men.
Several of her complaints were upheld but three of the officers retired and avoided a potential misconduct hearing.
An abuse victim’s father said a senior officer told him that this kind of activity had been going on for 30 years and the police could do nothing because of racial tensions.
The father initially described the policeman as the ‘chief constable’ and later as a ‘chief inspector’, but the complaint was upheld even though the officer remained unidentified.
In 2016, three brothers who groomed, raped and sexually assaulted 15 teenage girls in Rotherham were jailed.
Arshid Hussain, 40, was jailed for 35 years while siblings Basharat, 39, and Bannaras, 36, were jailed for 25 and 19 years respectively.
Their uncle, Qurban Ali, 53, who was found guilty of conspiracy to rape, was jailed for ten years.
Associate Karen MacGregor, 59, was jailed for 13 years and Shelley Davies, 40, was given an 18-month suspended term.