The scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, and the response of agencies to it, was revealed in two reports by Professor Alexis Jay (2014) and Louise Casey CB (2015). The reports make for harrowing reading, raising a myriad of questions as to how this abuse of children and young people could have gone unchecked for so many years. Both Professor Jay and Louise Casey have commented on the tendency for some individuals to deny the scale of the issue, to blame victims for their abuse+, and to discredit those that stand and say ‘enough is enough’.
Though the reports focus on Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, the references to South Yorkshire Police (‘SYP’) have raised significant concern for the Police and Crime Commissioner (‘the Commissioner’), as have revelations from parliamentary committee evidence sessions and in the media. The most recent of these revelations came from evidence heard by the Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee (2015) and in a BBC programme televised in March 2015, featuring allegations by a retired police officer, about SYP’s handling of child sexual exploitation reports in Sheffield prior to 2007.
As a result of the on-going way in which revelations have emerged, the Commissioner has requested a ‘Casey-like’ review into the way South Yorkshire Police responds to child sexual exploitation across all four districts of South Yorkshire, not just in Rotherham. He needs to establish whether the findings and recommendations raised in previous reports and inspections have been genuinely acknowledged and fully addressed, and whether there are robust plans in place to tackle non-recent as well as present day occurrences of child sexual exploitation. As the Commissioner said when he publicly announced this inspection on 13 March 2015:
“…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 review 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…”
From a public confidence perspective, it is important to publicise the good work that is being done by SYP Police to tackle child sexual exploitation. However, the focus must be on improving in the right things and in the right way. There are many hard-working and dedicated officers and members of staff that are tirelessly chasing an end to the sexual exploitation of children and young people. It is the duty of SYP’s senior management to make sure these officers and staff are supported to pursue new avenues, implement innovative ideas, and drive evidence-based learning. Too often there is anecdotal evidence that new approaches are hindered by obstructive working practices, silo-working by other agencies and departments, and out-dated policies.
Given the number of recent inspections and investigations into the response to child sexual exploitation which have involved SYP, it is understandable that there will be trepidation among those who are delivering frontline services about engaging with those conducting this review. However, this must not prevent a frank and open discussion taking place. It is important to remember that this is not a blaming exercise; it is about ensuring that the right improvements are made in the eyes of victims, survivors, their families, and the South Yorkshire public generally.
Terms of Reference for existing investigations and recent or forthcoming inspections by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (‘IPCC’), the National Crime Agency (‘NCA’), and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (‘HMIC’) have been taken into consideration in the drafting of these terms of reference, as has police and partner activity under the Multi-Agency Action Plan drawn up in response to the Jay report (which has been updated to cover events and revelations since the publication of the Jay report). There may be duplication between the terms of reference for the IPCC’s, NCA’s or HMIC’s activity and some of the questions in these terms of reference. However, where this could be said, the Commissioner still deems the questions in these terms of reference relevant and necessary due to the lengthy timescales involved in completing the other investigations or inspections, or the different perspective his review will adopt.
 Jay, A. (2014). Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, pp 1.
 Casey, L. (2015). Report of Inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. Department for Communities and Local Government. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, pp 47.
 Jay, A. (2014). Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, pp 38.
 Casey, L. (2015). Report of Inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council. Department for Communities and Local Government. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, pp 137.
 Subject to the IPCC investigation