Survivors of Rotherham child sexual abuse must be heard if police are to learn from the past

Published: 23 Nov 2021

Police must do more to support survivors of child sexual abuse and listen to their experiences, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said following a series of investigations into South Yorkshire Police’s response to non-recent allegations in the Rotherham area.

We have today published details of national and local recommendations made to tackle systemic issues identified during Operation Linden, which encompasses 91 separate investigations completed so far.

They have involved looking into 265 separate allegations, covering the period from 1997 to 2013. There were 51 complainants, 44 of whom were survivors of abuse.

Based on the findings of those investigations, the IOPC has made a series of recommendations to improve the treatment of those who come forward to report abuse and ensure officers are better equipped to investigate these offences.

IOPC Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan said: “Throughout Operation Linden, our priority has been the welfare of the survivors whose bravery in coming forward has enabled us to shine a light on the failings of the past.

“The complexity of these investigations – which have seen us take almost 1,000 statements, log more than 1,400 exhibits, and carry out nearly 4,000 investigative actions – is unparalleled but it was vital to explore every line of inquiry thoroughly.

“Police understanding of this type of offending has evolved significantly in recent years and we must acknowledge the efforts made to improve the way these cases are dealt with. However, there is still work to do and we have issued these recommendations to make sure lessons are learned and mistakes of the past are not repeated.”

The IOPC has today published details of 12 recommendations to organisations including South Yorkshire Police and the College of Policing. They cover subjects including: training for officers; the support provided to survivors; information sharing between forces; and the way these offences are recorded.

Among the areas for learning we identified are:
• A national recommendation, to the College of Policing, that the voices of survivors should be included in training for officers dealing with child sexual abuse
• That South Yorkshire Police should take steps to ensure its public protection units are complying with Home Office rules around crime recording
• A review of the laws surrounding offences committed by young people who are being groomed or exploited, which we are asking the Law Commission to carry out, in order to reduce the impact of the abuse on their future life prospects.

Mr Noonan added: “Survivors of abuse will no doubt be deeply concerned, as are we, that some of these problems still exist today and we urge the police to act on these recommendations urgently to provide much needed reassurance to the public.

“It is a tragedy that so many of the survivors we spoke to now have criminal records as a result of their actions while being exploited and there must be action across the judicial system to protect vulnerable young people and safeguard their futures.”

During Operation Linden, the IOPC has 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. Five have faced sanctions from management action up to a final written warning, while one hearing is still outstanding. In many cases, the officer had retired and due to legislation in place at the time, could not face disciplinary proceedings.

Mr Noonan added: “We now await confirmation that our recommendations are being implemented and are working to finalise our over-arching report, covering 91 investigations, once the final misconduct hearing has concluded.”

You can read the learning report on our website.

  • South Yorkshire Police
  • Child sexual abuse