An Independent Review of three current South Yorkshire Police investigations into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham, which was coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA), has been completed.
The Review Team, led by NCA Deputy Director André Baker, found that current officers and staff working on Operations Clover, Monroe and Mark are ‘conscientious, enthusiastic and focused upon providing good outcomes’. The force’s current strategic leadership of this critical area of public protection was found to be ‘professional and appropriate’.
However, the NCA report, presented to the force on April 13 2015, has made a total of 48 recommendations for further improvement at both strategic and operational levels.
The Independent Review was requested by the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, David Crompton, as part of phase one of Operation Stovewood – an independent NCA investigation examining criminal allegations of non-familial child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham.
NCA Director Trevor Pearce, the Officer in Overall Charge of Operation Stovewood said: “A review of these three investigations has identified improvements that need to be made at both strategic and operational level. Many of the issues identified by the review team have already been addressed by the force or work is in hand to do so.
“The Chief Constable and his Command team have been briefed on the recommendations for South Yorkshire Police and we will now progress our respective investigations.
"South Yorkshire Police has already made a number of arrests in relation to these matters.
"Following the Review Report, all relevant South Yorkshire Police investigations will now be coordinated under Operation Stovewood. Two, Operations Clover and Monroe, will continue to be managed independently on a day by day basis by South Yorkshire Police, as the review team found that they were ‘making good progress and have existing links with victims and witnesses’.
"However a third, Operation Mark, will be integrated into Stovewood and be taken forward under the leadership of NCA Senior Investigating Officer Steve Baldwin.
“South Yorkshire Police has been open and transparent with the review team and the new oversight arrangements being put in place provide greater opportunity to identify, disrupt and bring to justice those responsible for the offences under investigation.
"We will soon be in a position to update publicly on the progress of other elements of phase one of Operation Stovewood,” added Mr Pearce.
The Review Team concluded that:
Over the years, intelligence and investigative opportunities in relation to child sexual exploitation have been overlooked by South Yorkshire Police. The Review Team concurs with the finding’s of the Louise Casey Inspectors that South Yorkshire Police:
did not use alternative ways to gather evidence
did not use alternative strategies to protect victims
did not make use of other tools and powers available to them
did not work effectively with the community safety or licencing arms of the Council (Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council) to develop strategies for tackling perpetrators.
South Yorkshire Police has begun to address these issues and Operation Stovewood provides further opportunities to develop. The strategy of the current Gold Commander, Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee, demonstrates ‘a professional and appropriate response at a strategic level to this critical issue’.
Key Recommendations to South Yorkshire Police
Good progress is now being made in respect of Operations Clover and Monroe. The Review recommends that these investigations should continue to be managed on a day to day basis by South Yorkshire Police.
Operation Mark is not as developed as operations Clover and Monroe. The Review recommends that matters covered by this investigation should be transferred to Operation Stovewood and that all three operations should be co-coordinated by the Officer in Overall Command of Operation Stovewood. This is to ensure synergy with other investigations; maximise law-enforcement capabilities; prevent duplication of effort and deliver a consistent professional approach to victims and witnesses in partnership with other agencies.
There may be further opportunities to pursue offenders from other previous South Yorkshire Police investigations. The Review recommends that South Yorkshire Operation’s Central, Czar and Chard are also independently reviewed, to identify any potential for further action and also any valuable learning from these investigations. Two of these operations did not result in any cases of CSE being put before a court.
The review also recommends that information and intelligence generated by Operations Marshall and Meadow should be shared with Operation Stovewood.
The other recommendations from the Independent Review identify learning and areas for improvement from past or current investigations. In summary these recommendations relate to:
Clear decision making and record keeping at both strategic and operational levels, including records of strategic meetings and action taken.
The composition of investigative teams; ensuring relevant experience and skills relating to CSE investigation, interview advisors; major incident room staffing; management of disclosure and appropriate strategies relating to, for example, suspects, victims, witnesses and forensics, in keeping with national crime investigation standards.
First contact and ongoing engagement with victim and witnesses, including partnership management strategies for safeguarding and support, risk assessment and protection arrangements. The use of Peer Mentors and independent reporting arrangements should also be considered.
Enhanced multi-agency partnership arrangements; Pro-active reputation and public confidence management; clear media, communication and engagement strategies.
A review of crime recording in relation to National Crime Recording Standards.
The provision of training and refresher training to officers and staff.
Additional investigative and intelligence opportunities, both overt and covert.
A review of some specific actions taken/not taken in previous investigations to develop learning and best practice.
In addition to recommendations for South Yorkshire Police, the Review Team also makes 65 proposals for Operation Stovewood to consider before launching its investigative phase (phase two). This includes a proposal to commission regular independent reviews of the investigation as it progresses.