IOPC publishes report into South Yorkshire Police’s handling of Rotherham child sexual abuse investigations between 1997 and 2013

Published: 22 Jun 2022

Police forces must remain vigilant in the face of the evolving threat of child sexual exploitation and abuse, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has warned.

Today we publish our overarching report from Operation Linden, a wide-ranging series of investigations into South Yorkshire Police’s (SYP) responses to allegations of child sexual abuse and exploitation between 1997 and 2013.

While acknowledging the significant changes made since then to improve the way the force deals with this kind of offending, the report found significant failures by SYP, which was not ready at that time to deal with the nature and scale of the problem in Rotherham.

IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “I would first and foremost like to thank again the survivors who have shown incredible bravery in speaking out about their experiences and throughout Operation Linden.

“It is thanks to them that we have been able to paint a detailed picture of the way these allegations were handled by SYP and bring about some of the changes that were so badly needed. Their welfare has been our number one priority right from the outset.

“This report is the culmination of a huge amount of work to shine a spotlight on these extremely important issues. Now there is an opportunity, right across policing, to honour the survivors by ensuring mistakes of the past are never repeated.”

The report includes findings and summaries from 91 investigations started between 2014 and 2018, the last of which was completed in 2020. They cover 265 separate allegations made by 51 complainants, 44 of whom were survivors of abuse and exploitation.

During Operation Linden, we investigated the conduct of 47 officers. Eight were found to have a case to answer for misconduct and six had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

In many cases, officers had retired and, due to legislation in place at the time, could not face disciplinary proceedings. However, five of these officers received sanctions ranging from management action up to a final written warning. A sixth faced a misconduct hearing arranged by the force earlier this year and the case was found not proven by the independent panel.

Of the 164 allegations we looked into where an officer’s conduct was not under investigation, we upheld 43 complaints.

Mr Noonan added: “This has been an extremely complex and challenging piece of work, made more difficult by the fact some of these incidents took place more than two decades ago. However, we were determined to investigate thoroughly and leave no stone unturned.

“Policing has changed considerably – both nationally and in South Yorkshire – since the period we looked at and a great deal of work has been done to address the issues of the past. Organisations across Rotherham and South Yorkshire have taken important steps to improve how they work together to protect children and young people. However, there is still more to do.

“Our report shows how SYP failed to protect vulnerable children and young people. Like other agencies in Rotherham at that time, it was simply not equipped to deal with the abuse and organised grooming of young girls on the scale we encountered.

“We are encouraged by the progress made to address the recommendations we made last year to ensure policing learns from this. The challenge now is to ensure that, as this type of offending continues to evolve, police forces continue to adapt so they are never again caught unprepared.”

Further details about Operation Linden, including copies of the overarching report and the executive summary, have been published on our website.

  • South Yorkshire Police