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Full horror of Rotherham abuse scandal as police said older men were ‘fashion accessary’ and groomed girls could be ‘taught a lesson’

Police officers dismissed complaints about sexual abuse in Rotherham by saying victims used older men as “fashion accessories” and could to be “taught a lesson”, while some children were abused for years after officers ignored warnings, and girls as young as 12 became pregnant.

Details of officers’ shocking actions have been outlined in a report released on Wednesday by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). The long-awaited report, which looks into the abuse scandal involving 1,400 children, took eight years to publish and cost “around £6million pounds”. It has concluded that South Yorkshire Police “failed to protect vulnerable children and young people.”

But despite investigating the actions of 47 police officers, carrying out 91 investigations, considering 20,000 documents, 800 investigation statements and 1,300 exhibits logged – no officers have been prosecuted or sacked. Many officers who had a case to answer either retired or resigned while others were given “advice”.

Read more: Rotherham abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse brands police report ‘a kick in the teeth’

The IOPC’s investigation catalogued how teenagers were seen as “consenting” to their abuse by officers and car crime was prioritised ahead of child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The different complaints against the police force were outlined in the report. It detailed how one parent concerned about their missing daughter said they were told by an officer “it was a ‘fashion accessory’ for girls in Rotherham to have an ‘older Asian boyfriend’ and that she would grow out of it”.

In another case a girl, aged 15, had been raped in a Rotherham park in 2009. She was so badly injured she needed surgery, and even though medics and hospital staff suspected rape this was was dismissed the police officers.

The report said: “We were told by the survivor’s father that the officer dealing with the incident was insensitive and made no attempt to reassure the survivor, even suggesting to their father that this would ‘teach’ the survivor a lesson’.”

In another case officers failed to prosecute a perpetrator found hiding under the bed with his victim, while the girl was held for possession of a police truncheon.

Another officer, who bought steroids from a perpetrator and was accused of gross misconduct, resigned from the force before the hearing.

In another case the report revealed: “A woman rang SYP about an inappropriate relationship between her 12 year old stepdaughter and an older man but was told that if the survivor would not make a statement, there was nothing the police could do.

“The woman felt there was no point in reporting the relationship and any future concerns. Sadly, this survivor was sexually exploited for a further three to four years.”



The Rotherham grooming scandal in numbers
The Rotherham grooming scandal in numbers

The report said: “Many vulnerable individuals were seen as problems not victims. Especially children in care…

“We found many instances where crimes were not recorded when they should have been, including reports of sexual assault and sexual activity with a child.

“In one case, we were told that at a 2001 child protection conference, a Detective Constable, who had investigated offences against a 12 year old survivor, commented the survivor had provided consent in different sexual encounters, despite legislation being very clear that it is not possible for a child of this age to give consent.”

The investigation covered 265 separate allegations made by 51 complainants, 44 of whom were survivors of abuse and exploitation. It found eight officers had a case to answer for misconduct and six had a case to answer for gross misconduct.

They also identified 14 officers who demonstrated unsatisfactory performance, or who received management words of advice. The IOPC told how two written warnings had been handed out, seven no further actions and three management actions or ‘words of advice’.

One matter involving an officer’s gross misconduct was referred to CPS under the Data Protection Act 1998 who decided not to take any action.

Rotherham abuse survivor and campaigner, Sammy Woodhouse, 37, said she was “disgusted” nobody in the police had been held accountable despite her ten year battle for justice. She also said she is furious that officers had been allowed to retire on a full pension.

“I’m pleased that my complaints were upheld because still to this day people think I’m lying. People always say I’m not a real victim because he didn’t sell me or pass me around. It’s pathetic,” she told the Mirror. “But as per, not one person has been held to account for anything, despite all this evidence they have and they’ve retired and got full pensions.

“It’s been a ten year fight and I’ve put my heart and soul into everything. I have gone into detail to the police, to the IOPC, to report after report, to training events. I am trying to have people held to account but have not been successful. I’m disgusted.”

One of the survivors, Elizabeth, 34, not her real name, abused from the age of 15 after being groomed, told The Mirror this morning: “It’s an absolute joke and laughable. It’s sickening. There’s no accountability. It’s like the police are untouchable. It’s like police can do what they want without fear of being held responsible for it.

“It is a dangerous message not just to send to police officers but the perpetrators too. It’s disrespectful to survivors and their families. What does this say to future victims?



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“This would put anyone off coming forward because what’s the point really? At the end of the day this is just a tick boxing exercise. Only reason they are sorry is they’ve got caught. Now it will go back to denial again.”

The South Yorkshire Police police and crime commissioner also slammed the report, saying it “fails to identify any individual accountability” and “lets down victims and survivors”.

PCC Alan Billings said: “I am disappointed that after eight years of very costly investigations, this report fails to make any significant recommendations over and above what South Yorkshire Police have already accepted and implemented from previous investigations some years ago.

“It repeats what past reports and reviews have shown – that there was unacceptable practice between 1997 and 2013 – but fails to identify any individual accountability.

“As a result, it lets down victims and survivors.”

South Yorkshire Police (SYP) has admitted “we got it wrong and we let victims down”.

The true scale of the horror in Rotherham emerged in August 2014, when an independent report concluded that an estimated 1,400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, by predominantly British-Pakistani men. It revealed how children were drugged and raped, passed around to strangers for abuse and tortured. Numerous children had become pregnant including a 12 year old, according to the report.

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