The Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal continues to develop as the National Crime Agency (NCA), the ‘British FBI’, prioritises an investigation into two ‘current or former’ Rotherham councillors.
Under the leadership of senior investigating officer Steve Baldwin, 60 or so officers and staff now conducting Operation Stovewood — the independent NCA investigation into incidents of non-familial child sexual exploitation and abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 — have identified six new investigations in their review of previous South Yorkshire Police cases. Two of those six have been prioritised, reports the Sheffield Star.
Of the two prioritised cases involving nine specific suspects, one is an investigation into criminal allegations referred by Louise Casey. She is the head of the government’s Troubled Families Programme who in September 2014 was appointed by the then Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles to conduct an independent inspection of Rotherham Council.
She was to look into the council’s behaviour over a period of decades when at least 1,400 girls were groomed, drugged and raped by local Pakistani Muslims.
Ultimately the highly critical Casey Report found Rotherham Council was “not fit for purpose”, leading to the resignation of the entire political leadership of the council and comments from former council leader Roger Stone that the Casey Report felt “like a witch hunt”.
The two prioritised cases are far from the end of the matter, it is reported the investigation has identified more than 7,300 lines of enquiry it may pursue and the operation is expected to have assessed something in the region of 10,000 documents related to child sexual exploitation cases by the turn of the year.
The sheer scale of the material uncovered by the operation means it is likely to become the largest investigation of its kind in UK history, according to the Yorkshire Post.
Other aspects of the operation include interviews with around 50 victims and survivors of abuse that have, again, been identified by the team as specific priorities.