Jail threat for officials

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings

Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans on how to protect children from sexual exploitation have been welcomed in South Yorkshire.

Mr Cameron warned yesterday that senior public officials and councillors who fail to protect children from sexual exploitation will face up to five years in jail under a new criminal offence being considered by the Government.

A new national helpline will be established to help professionals blow the whistle on failings in care for children.

And senior staff who leave councils after abuse scandals could see their pay-offs clawed back if it is shown they failed to protect children.

The measures were announced at a child protection summit at Downing Street yesterday, organised in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in Rotherham, which affected 1,400 children over 16 years.

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, said: “I welcome any new measures that will help to strengthen the systems in place to protect children from sexual exploitation and to bring more offenders to justice. I will do whatever I can to enable South Yorkshire take advantage of any new funding being offered.

“For South Yorkshire Police I have committed 62 additional staff to work in the unit that deals with child sexual exploitation. It would be helpful if the government recognised this by funding these posts otherwise, with big reductions in the police grant this year, resources will have to be diverted from elsewhere to pay for them.

“We are beginning to see in South Yorkshire many more people having confidence to come forward and speak to the police – though that remains a difficult journey for many to take.

“There are organisations in Rotherham that work with victims and survivors that are struggling to keep going and need funding now.

“We desperately need to turn a corner in Rotherham and that can happen if we have in place adequate funding, the right attitudes on the part of professionals and a willingness to listen to victims and survivors and learn from them.”