South Yorkshire Police has made 'determined progress' since 2013, inquiry finds


An independent review into South Yorkshire Police's handling of child sexual exploitation (CSE) has found that the scale of the failure in Rotherham was not repeated in other parts of the force area.

Professor John Drew, who led the inquiry, said he agreed with criticisms made in previous high-profile investigations into what happened to hundreds of children in the South Yorkshire town and said the force's response to CSE in the past was "inadequate".

The author said the force had made "determined progress" since 2013 and that the police response to safeguarding children and young people from CSE was now adequate and, in some cases, of high quality.

The Drew Review follows the Jay Report, which outlined how at least 1,400 youngsters had been trafficked, raped and assaulted over a 16-year period, and the Casey Report, which looked at Rotherham Council's response and was highly critical of the local authority.

Following the Casey Report, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings said he thought a similar inquiry needed to be directed at South Yorkshire Police to cover the whole force area.

Prof Drew, a former director of social services and former chief executive of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, interviewed more than 150 people as part of the review, which was due to be published in January but was delayed to allow further opportunities for people to contribute.

Discussing the force's handling into CSE in other areas of the county, Prof Drew said: "I did not receive any direct accounts from victims and survivors or from other people that would lead me to believe that the scale of failure in Rotherham was repeated elsewhere."

Prof Drew focused his investigation on Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster and found that police were "more actively engaged" with the issue of CSE in Sheffield in the past.

He said CSE in Rotherham in the 2000s was seen by police officers "a burden", while there were always officers in Sheffield who wanted to combat the crime.

"There is a world of difference between these two mindsets," he said.

Prof Drew said he believed police engagement was hampered in Barnsley by a "limited view of what sexual exploitation might look like" but said strategies put in place in Doncaster in the 1990s in response to issues in the town at that stage led to a more positive situation "on the ground".

He found that, by today's standards, the scale of response to CSE 15 years ago was inadequate across the whole of South Yorkshire, with mistakes and missed opportunities until 2011 due to the low priority given to the crime.

He made 11 recommendations for the force to carry out but said that the current leadership deserved credit for changing the priority afforded to combating CSE.

He said: "I believe that the police response to safeguarding children and young people from child sexual exploitation is now adequate. Indeed, some recent work undertaken by South Yorkshire Police appears to me to be of high quality."

Prof Drew highlighted the limitations he faced as a result of ongoing investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and South Yorkshire Police.

He said he had "no powers" to investigate speculation about whether police corruption played any part in failings to respond to CSE.

He also revealed that the IPCC and NCA investigations would not be completed until 2017 at the earliest, and criticised the slow pace, adding: "I cannot emphasise too strongly the harmful impact that this is having on victims and survivors, on police officers and staff, and on public confidence in policing."