Number of child sexual abuse victims in Rotherham raised to 1,510

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A teenage girl, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse, poses in Rotherham in 2014. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Source: The Guardian, by  , February 20,  2018

National Crime Agency analysis suggests number is higher than 1,400 identified in 2014 Jay report

The number of children believed to have been sexually exploited in Rotherhamhas been raised to 1,510, in the first official increase in the figure since the scandal erupted four years ago.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) detectives revealed the updated figure on Tuesday in a briefing on Operation Stovewood, the investigation into child sexual exploitation over a 16-year period in the South Yorkshire town. Prof Alexis Jay’s report in 2014 identified 1,400 victims.

The NCA inquiry, the biggest of its kind in the UK, has identified 110 suspects, of whom 80% are of Pakistani heritage, officers said.

Of the 110, 38 have been arrested, 18 have been charged, two cautioned and four have been convicted and handed prison sentences totaling over 30 years.

Thirty-four investigations are continuing under the Operation Stovewood umbrella, officers said, with six trials to take place later this year.

Of the 1,510 potential victims, detectives said 260 – 17% – were speaking to officers but that police aimed to talk to every victim. The vast majority of victims were white British girls aged 11 to 18, police said.

Paul Williamson, the senior investigating officer on Operation Stovewood, described the inquiry as “a unique and unprecedented investigation, challenging in its scale and complexity”.

He said: “The momentum and pace of the inquiry is increasing and that will continue to increase. Justice is being rendered and I’ve got a very, very committed team that’s working on a very worthy mission.”

Williamson said a “toxic mix” of factors let abusers go almost unchecked in Rotherham from about 1997 to 2013, when the scandal first broke.

He said a failure by police to listen, safeguard and investigate the reports had led to a corrosive lack of trust among victims that the NCA was still trying to break down.

Detectives said the £10m investigation, which began in 2015, had disrupted the town’s street grooming gangs but there were still “a handful” of high-risk abusers at large.

The majority of the offending took place in Rotherham, officers said, but detectives had heard one case of a victim being taken to Pakistan to be abused and there was evidence of trafficking across other northern towns and as far south as Bristol.

The complex nature of the investigation meant that more suspects were being identified all the time, Williamson said. In one case, a survivor led police to identify 17 other victims, 30 suspects and 27 possible crime scenes.

Operation Stovewood involves 144 officers working on 34 distinct investigations, but Williamson said he hoped to increase his team to between 200 and 250 people.

He said the operation was at a “very, very early stage” and that it was committing to supporting victims “no matter how long or challenging investigations are”.

Williamson added: “We will not falter in our commitment as an agency to this task. The identification and bringing to justice of offenders is what what we’ll be judged on.”

The NCA’s inquiry is into allegations of non-familial child sexual exploitation in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013. South Yorkshire police is investigating allegations dating from 2014.