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24.06.15

Councillors among Rotherham child sexual exploitation suspects

Two “current or former” Rotherham councillors are among those being investigated on suspicion of grooming and sexually exploiting girls as young as 12.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has been investigating child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) in Rotherham since the release of Prof Alexis Jay’s report last year, which revealed that at least 1,400 children in the area had been sexually exploited over a 16-year period.

In an update on the investigation, the NCA said they have identified up to 300 male suspects, mostly of Asian appearance.

NCA director Trevor Pearce, the officer in overall command of the investigation (named Operation Stovewood), said that two of the suspects were current or former councillors and that they were suspected of criminality rather than professional misconduct.

However, he warned that the figure of 300 suspects would likely be revised down.

“It is clear that some details provided will be duplicates of other details, names, nick-names or street names. Others may not prove to be offenders at all, or may be witnesses to abuse,” Pearce said.

The investigators have found that Prof Jay’s assessment of around 1,400 potential victims has proved accurate.

Over the last six months, since the investigation started, the 32 officers assigned to it have collated and assessed 92 boxes of files relating to CSEA in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

Forty-seven boxes of written material came from Risky Business, a specialist service in Rotherham set up to monitor children at risk of prostitution, which was shut down by the council in 2011. These boxes contained nearly 1,500 files which have all been reviewed and indexed.

Steve Baldwin, senior investigating officer, said that more than 3,300 lines of inquiry had already been identified.

“The abuse that has taken place in Rotherham is horrific. We have gathered a huge amount of information which details some very disturbing events,” he added.

“Work to identify all victims of non-familial CSEA in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 is ongoing. I would say that Alexis Jay’s estimate of 1,400 victims remains a very good assessment.”

The NCA is to concentrate on those offenders who may still pose a risk first.

Baldwin said: “We will prioritise action against suspects who may continue to pose any risk of harm today and those who have caused most harm in the past. We will examine all allegations of abuse and, most importantly, we will listen to victims.”

(Picture by: Lynne Cameron / PA Wire)

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