Rotherham Abuse | Learning From Past Failings to Safeguard Tomorrow’s Survivors

Portrait of Hywel Thomas
Hywel Thomas
Senior Associate Solicitor, Abuse

Headlines from the IOPC’s report on authorities’ failure to protect children from sexual abuse are troubling - even for experienced Abuse Solicitors. The question is, what can be learned from the IOPC’s report?

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The Independent Office for Police Conduct Report on Rotherham Child Abuse

This long-awaited report details one of many inquiries that followed a report in 2014 exposing the scale of child abuse in Rotherham. The report detailed how 1,400 young girls were raped, trafficked, abducted, beaten and intimidated.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was tasked with examining how the police and other authorities responded at the time.

A summary of the latest report’s findings include the following:

  • Police failed to remove children from the company of older men. The children were as young as 11-years-old and the men in question were accepted as their “boyfriends”.
  • Police officers were told to prioritise other crimes.
  • A total of 47 current and former officers were investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, after 265 separate allegations made by more than 50 complainants.
  • Eight officers were found to have a case to answer for misconduct and six were found to have a case to answer for gross misconduct.

IOPC director of major investigations, Steve Noonan, told Sky News: "Our report shows how South Yorkshire Police 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."

South Yorkshire's deputy chief constable, Tim Forber, told Sky News: "We fully accept the findings of the IOPC report. We let victims of CSE [child sexual exploitation] down. We failed to recognise their vulnerability and failed to see them as victims, for that I am deeply sorry. They deserved better from us.

"The brave accounts of these girls caused a seismic change in policing crimes of this nature for South Yorkshire Police and the wider police service."

He added: "Whilst I am confident we are a very different force today, I will not lose sight of the fact that we got it wrong and we let victims down."

What Does This Mean for Survivors of Abuse?

Following the report’s publication, many people – including survivors of abuse in Rotherham – have spoken out at the police and local authorities’ inactions and considerable shortcomings. After all, it was the role of those officers and personnel to protect the vulnerable children in need of help and escape from their abusers.

Many survivors of abuse – particularly those who reported abuse in Rotherham those years ago – are understandably angry at the inaction and attitude of the police officers involved. Not only were the severity of these crimes not understood or taken seriously, officers were not held to account for not doing their job.

It is important that any survivor of abuse reading this knows that lessons have since been learned, and the police today have a considerably improved understanding of abuse, the actions to take and how to help survivors. We welcome the findings from the report as a step forward in safeguarding children from abuse and seeing that actions are taken so that those in danger are heard and protected when they go to the police or their local authority in a time of severe need.

Do not be deterred from reporting abuse; from these past failings, actions will be taken to see that history does not repeat itself.

Read the case study of a survivor we helped here.

Speak up Speak Out | The MoJ’s Victim-Survivor Support Needs Survey

This month, the Ministry of Justice launched its Victim-Survivor Support Needs Survey. The survey aims to gain an understanding of how people who have experienced abuse can be better supported in England and Wales.

To inform future funding for support services, the Ministry of Justice wants to hear from anyone who has suffered sexual violence or any other form of abuse as an adult. This includes sexual activity that was unwanted.

For more information and to have your say, click here.

Abuse is difficult to talk about. It can take a long time for people that have experienced abuse to be able to let anyone know that it has happened. We understand that it takes immense courage to report abuse and to take legal action against those responsible.

Our specialist team of Abuse Claims Solicitors are compassionate, understanding, and easy to talk to. We’ll handle your case with the sensitivity it deserves, offering you help and support throughout the whole process.

When you are ready to talk, we are here to listen.

You can contact our Abuse Claims Solicitors online or by calling us on 0808 239 1287 for a free confidential case assessment. Legal Aid may be available, depending on your financial situation or we could deal with your claim on a No Win, No Fee basis.

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