South Yorkshire police chiefs hope for Government grant to pay for force-wide inspection

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

South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is hoping for a Home Office grant to cover the cost of an inspection of the county’s police force.

Dr Alan Billings ordered the inspection of South Yorkshire Police in the wake of two damning reports on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, which were both critical of the force’s response to the issue.

One report, by Professor Alexis Jay, suggested 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013 by largely Pakistani-heritage men while authorities turned a blind eye because of sensitivities around the ethnicity of offenders.

The other, by Government official Louise Casey, called for the police force to ‘step up’ and ‘accept responsibility’ for its part in the failure to deal with child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

Dr Billings also called for the probe after two retired officers went public with allegations that hundreds of children in Sheffield were let down by the force because chiefs put more emphasis on offences where there were Government targets to meet, including car crime and burglary.

Dr Billings wants the inspection to look at how South Yorkshire Police dealt with child sexual exploitation in the past and how the issue is treated now.

The National Crime Agency is investigating historic child sex abuse offences in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 and the Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating possible misconduct.

The NCA work alone is expected to run into millions of pounds and is to be paid for by South Yorkshire Police, which called the organisation in.

The force now faces paying for the new inspection unless the Home Office awards a grant.

“We are talking to the Home Office on almost a daily basis while we work out the terms of reference,” said Dr Billings.

“There are a number of inspections going on at the moment - the National Crime Agency and the IPCC are both doing their work and we don’t want to tread on their toes, nor do we want to repeat the work of Professor Alexis Jay and Louise Casey.

“We will have to pay for it but we are hoping it will be of national concern and that the work can be the subject of a special Home Office grant.”

Dr Billings added: “It has to be a thorough inspection but it needs to be speedy. I want it to tell us what went wrong, why it went wrong, what needs to be done to put it right and to get it right for the future. The primary concern here is to understand and learn.

“The victims and survivors I talk to talk about perpetrators being brought to justice but they also want to understand what went wrong so that it does not happen for future generations of young people.”