The number of investigations into the police response to allegations of child abuse and Muslim grooming gangs in Rotherham has increased to nearly 100, the police watchdog has revealed.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said they had identified “potential misconduct”, and at the beginning of April, they were overseeing 98 investigations into the response of South Yorkshire Police, compared with 62 at the same point last year.
In a statement released Wednesday, they add that 33 current and former police officers were still under investigation, with a further 45 completed inquiries.
Among the investigations is one into former South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright for allegedly committing perjury when giving evidence to the home affairs select committee in 2014.
The police have been accused, in a government report, of ignoring sex abuse claims because of political correctness and fear of accusation of racism, as well as allegedly blaming some child victims.
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It was found that 1,400 non-Muslim girls were groomed, raped, trafficked, and drugged in the town between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.
“We will publish an over-arching report; combining the outcomes of our investigations when they are all complete,” IOPC Acting Deputy Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, explained.
“Our aim is to not only highlight any conduct matters relating to individual officers but, crucially, to share our understanding of why such serious allegations often weren’t investigated and how this can be avoided in the future.”
He added: “We are supporting 53 survivors and a number of complainants through a very difficult period, when they are also being asked to give evidence to the National Crime Agency to support their investigations into the terrible crimes committed in Rotherham.”
The investigations are part of Operation Linden, the second largest independent investigation ever carried out by the IOPC, with only the inquiry into South Yorkshire Police’s conduct over the Hillsborough disaster larger.
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It has a dedicated team of 35 staff who have analysed more than 15,000 documents and pieces of evidence, some of which date to the 1990s, the statement reveals.
Officers in the force were sent an internal memo telling them that “in most cases the sex is consensual”, despite many of the victims being children below the age of consent.
Some of the victims were just 11 years old, and one is known to have given birth at just 14. One girl claims police found her in cars with her abusers and that she was forced to collect the morning after pill multiple times a week after being raped.