NCA no longer investigating child sexual exploitation in Rotherham
By Amy Clowrey
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has announced that it will no longer be taking on new investigations relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation in Rotherham from 2024. All new investigations will be led by South Yorkshire Police.
Evidence of child abuse in Rotherham was first noted in the early 1990s. By 1997 Rotherham Council had started the ‘Risky Business’ Project, to work with those thought to be at risk of exploitation, but the project closed in 2011.
A series of articles in The Times from January 2011 onwards, noted that the abuse within Rotherham was widespread and that the police and council had known about the abuse for over 10 years. This prompted the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee to conduct hearings, ultimately leading to Rotherham Council commissioning an independent inquiry, led by Professor Alexis Jay.
The Jay report concluded that an estimated 1,400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997-2013. Given the failings of SYP in investigating the exploitation of young women since the early 1990’s, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police asked the NCA to lead an independent investigation into the historic abuse. This investigation was the start of Operation Stovewood, which began in 2014.
Operation Stovewood is the single largest law enforcement investigation into non-familial child sexual exploitation and abuse in the UK. It has resulted in more than 200 arrests and 26 convictions.
The NCA stepping back will come as a huge blow for survivors of abuse in Rotherham, many of whom have no faith in SYP or indeed any of the authorities in the area.
Many of the women Switalskis represent only came forward because of the way in which individual officers of the NCA handled their allegations, often indicating it was the first time that they felt they had been believed.
The Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVA) in Rotherham (a service funded by Operation Stovewood) have been incredible in supporting survivors of abuse, not only through the court process, but also in managing their day-to-day lives when their world had been turned upside down by the NCA contacting them and having to relive harrowing details from their past which they’d often buried in order to try and move forward. We can only hope that SYP have learnt lessons from the way in which it handled cases relating to child sexual exploitation between 1997-2013 and that they will not make the same mistakes.
The work of the NCA has been commendable, survivors of abuse have been treated with respect and compassion, something which we hope will continue despite the change of hands.
Although the ISVA service has now closed, Rothacs still offers support to survivors of abuse in Rotherham and we would encourage anyone reading this who is struggling as a result of child sexual abuse to contact them on 01709 835482 or email email@example.com
Switalskis Child Abuse department has represented over 80 women who suffered child sexual abuse and exploitation in Rotherham. If you would like a confidential chat with a member of our team, please call 0800 138 4700 .