Police ignored the sexual abuse of hundreds of young girls because they were too busy chasing Labour crime targets that would earn bonuses for senior staff.
Whistleblower Tony Brookes, a former detective who tried to investigate the abuse, said money was diverted away from protecting the children from rape, trafficking and beatings in order to pursue so-called ‘priority crimes’.
The offences, which included car crime, were considered crucial for satisfying a target culture introduced by the last Labour government.
Now it has emerged the same targets were also linked to performance-related pay for top officers at South Yorkshire Police.
It meant that, while young girls suffered heinous abuse at the hands of sex gangs in Sheffield and Rotherham, top brass could have had a perverse incentive to instruct their staff to look elsewhere.
The targets have been scrapped by the Tories amid concern they were harming policing.
Tory parliamentary candidate Michael Ellis, a former member of the home affairs select committee, said: ‘Labour’s grossly irresponsible obsession with targets led to a perverted sense of priorities whereby senior officers could get bonuses for prioritising car crime while hundreds of young girls were being abused with impunity.’
The first details of the scandal emerged earlier this year when papers from South Yorkshire Police, relating to child abuse in Sheffield, were leaked to the BBC. The documents and the testimony of former officers suggested the force failed to pursue a number of child sexual exploitation inquiries and ignored intelligence that girls as young as 12 were being raped.
A copy of a document from the force’s intelligence database detailed more than 200 girls suspected of being sexually exploited. It listed more than 320 men accused of carrying out abuse, mainly between 2007 and 2010.
Allegations included rapes, traffickings, child abduction and threats to scald girls by holding kettles of boiling water over them.
The alleged victims were aged between 12 and 15 while their abusers included Iraqi Kurds, white British, black British, and men of Pakistani heritage.
|South Yorkshire police apologise to victims of sexual abuse|
But after spending only half that amount he was told the entire budget had gone. He says the other £8,000 was diverted to spend chasing ‘district priorities, to investigate robbery, burglary and car crime’. These priorities were tied to Home Office targets introduced by Labour in 2002.
In Rotherham, the dossier into the scandal there by Professor Alexis Jay described how senior and middle managers at South Yorkshire Police were ‘more focused on dealing with offences such as burglary and vehicle crime’ than tackling child abuse.
A second report by government adviser Louise Casey concluded the establishment in Rotherham ignored child sexual exploitation due to ‘misplaced political correctness’. And Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary found senior South Yorkshire officers prioritised burglary and car crime over victims of abuse.
Labour’s crime targets meant forces were aware that chief constables could get the sack if performance was repeatedly inadequate. The link to performance-related pay that has emerged meant senior officers could pocket bonuses worth thousands for catching criminals or reducing the incidence of so-called priority offences.
This system has also been scrapped by the Tories.
South Yorkshire Police said: ‘Chief officer bonuses were ratified as part of a process overseen by police authorities.’