South Yorkshire Police has covered up abuse on a “massive” scale in the former industrial city turned multicultural melting-pot, a retired, veteran, police officer has claimed, remarking in an interview the abuse was “bigger than Rotherham”.
The revelation by the former officer, who served for thirty years, could be yet another in a long line of emerging child sex scandals in predominantly northern English cities with sizable Pakistani populations. It is not the first such revelation for South Yorkshire Police, who also failed to detect and prosecute criminal abuse in the city of Rotherham, where 1,400 known girls were trafficked and raped by a network of criminals using take-away shops and minicab firms to enable their activities.
A Sheffield city council employee tasked with tracking child sex abuse has claimed almost 700 children were referred to the police in just two years, but not a single prosecution was made on the back of the information passed to the police.
Retired constable Tony Brooks has come forward with the allegations, and has said South Yorkshire Police have long known that girls as young as twelve – putting them into the most serious category of sex abuse – were being raped, but chose not to act on the information they had, effectively creating a cover-up. Claiming 200 girls were reported to have been abused in just a three year period in the city, he told the BBC “The size of the exploitation was massive in Sheffield."
|Sheffield city, UK|
It also lists more than 320 men accused of carrying out abuse, mainly between 2007 and 2010.
The abuse includes:
Dozens of allegations of sex with a child
Physical assaults, including beatings
Threats, including threats to kill parents and threats to scald girls by holding kettles of boiling water over them
Most of the girls are aged 13 to 15 but some are as young as 12.
The nationalities of the alleged abusers include a mixture of Iraqi Kurds, white British, black British, and Pakistani Heritage, among others.
The document lists three members of the same family linked to the alleged abuse of almost three-dozen girls.
In most cases there is no evidence police took any action.
'Most vulnerable' people
Some of the abuse claims detailed in the document were investigated and prosecutions did follow.
In 2007, one investigation known as Operation Glover led to the conviction of a group of Iraqi-Kurdish men - two of whom received 10-year prison sentences while two others received substantial custodial sentences.
Following that investigation at least two detectives urged senior officers to continue enquiries.
Other girls had been identified, allegations had been made, and new potential perpetrators had been pinpointed.
A 2007 report sent to several senior officers described an "emerging criminal issue" in Sheffield, saying the level of criminality was "serious", and the victims were "among the most vulnerable in society".
It also said South Yorkshire Police did "not have any effective process or policy to combat the situation".
Among the senior officers who were sent the 2007 report were Jon House and Paul Broadbent - according to Tony Brookes, who had worked as a detective on the investigation.
Both have now left the police but are the subject of Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigations over previous allegations they failed to act on child sexual exploitation claims.
Despite the substantial problems identified, the team was disbanded.
Police analyst Gary Birchall, who also spoke to the BBC, expressed his disbelief after he learnt of the extent of the cover-up. He was asked as part of his work to look into a special operation run by the South Yorkshire Police, and paid for by Sheffield city council which was tasked with looking into child sex abuse. He found that despite it having been specifically requested and funded to the tune of £50,000, the operation had been shelved almost immediately with officers reassigned to other work.
“We offered to form a unit to continue the work – we offered to advertise our work so girls would come forward. We were told, ‘it’s not going to happen, return to your districts.”
“He said to me, ‘go and spend an hour or two with each girl and find out what’s happened to them and tell them there’s not enough evidence to go on”. The officer refused to follow the order.
He requested a “full investigation” into the failure, but his call went unheeded. Speaking on the matter, he said: “I got a call telling me the operation’s been shelved. I said it can’t be shelved, there’s evidence here that children are being trafficked, being sexually abused. There isn’t a superlative that describes how I felt then or how I feel now. Utter, utter, disbelief.”