More than 650 suspected cases of child sexual exploitation have been referred to South Yorkshire Police in less than a year, new figures reveal.
Between April 2014 and February 2015, 188 reports were made in Sheffield, 176 in Barnsley, 134 in Doncaster and 132 in Rotherham.
There were a further 28 reports linked to grooming incidents believed to have happened across more than one district of South Yorkshire.
All the referrals have been investigated, with 244 offences recorded across South Yorkshire – 74 in Doncaster, 68 in Rotherham, 64 in Sheffield and 38 in Barnsley.
Police said a number of investigations are still ongoing and further charges will be brought.
Details have been released by South Yorkshire Police as part of its efforts to raise awareness about child sexual exploitations and the force’s work.
One victim today said a planned investigation into the conduct of the force is needed to restore public confidence.
“I do think the police are sometimes a little bit stuck because they have to abide by the law and everybody blames them when it is partly down to the CPS,” she said.
“There have been 244 offences and only 41 have been charged – that means some are walking about scot-free.”
She added: “I don’t think people trust the police still. A report needs to be done into the police to start moving on – the past needs to be dealt with.
“The council are now starting to get on board and put things in place.”
There are 189 live investigations still running across the county, including 50 in Sheffield, 46 in Rotherham and 39 in Barnsley. Doncaster has the highest number of ongoing investigations, with 54 taking place. It comes as Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP and former Home Secretary David Blunkett spoke of his ‘sadness’ at the length of time it took police officers concerned about the way child sexual exploitation was handled in the city to speak out.
Mr Blunkett said he hopes police past and present will take heed of the pledge by The Reverend Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner, that if they come forward with information they will be ‘listened to and taken seriously’.
Dr Billings urged current and former officers to come forward after retired detective Tony Brookes went public with claims that senior police officers in Sheffield ignored efforts to open inquiries into child sexual exploitation in the city. Mr Brookes claimed the force spent money set aside for tackling child abuse on crimes including robbery, car crime and burglary to meet government targets.
Leaked documents reveal police chiefs in Sheffield knew the names of 200 possible abuse victims between 2007 and 2010 but a lack of police action to find the perpetrators.
Mr Blunkett said: “I am extremely sad that those who provided further worrying revelations felt unable to do so earlier, including ex-police officers.
“I know that the new process set up by the commissioner will place emphasis on a trustworthy and robust mechanism now to provide information privately, to be taken seriously and to avoid the ‘drip drop’ approach which is so corrosive.”
Chris Burn & Claire Lewis