'Disappointing day for CSE victims' - MP responds to police misconduct verdict

'Disappointing day for CSE victims' - MP responds to police misconduct verdict

By Jill Theobald | 01/04/2022

'Disappointing day for CSE victims' - MP responds to police misconduct verdict

ROTHERHAM MP Sarah Champion has expressed her “disappointment” after a former police sergeant who denied failing to act on information about alleged child sexual exploitation (CSE) was cleared of gross misconduct.

Former Det Sgt David Walker — who was at the time working for South Yorkshire Police as part of a specialist unit in Maltby looking at CSE — was cleared of all allegations by a panel at the misconduct hearing on Thursday at South Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department. 

He was sent emails between 2009 and 2012 by Jayne Senior, former manager of Risky Business, a Rotherham Council (RMBC) youth project which worked with girls and young women at risk of sexual exploitation.

The former officer accepted he did not log some emails on a police database but said all of the information was always passed on, appeared “in some other form in another operation” or there was an expectation other officers would deal with it.

Dismissing the misconduct allegations against Mr Walker, the panel ruled he had not taken any action which fell below the “accepted practice at the time”.

Describing the verdict as “an incredibly disappointing day for victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation,” the Rotherham MP said she would continue to “stand shoulder to shoulder with them”.

Ms Champion said: “The proceedings painted a deeply disturbing picture of South Yorkshire Police’s approach to CSE throughout this period. Sadly, it is one that will be all too familiar to survivors, whistleblowers and all those who have fought to expose the appalling failure to protect children in Rotherham.

“While this misconduct hearing has now concluded, it is abundantly clear that this was far larger than the failures of any one officer. Multiple reports and investigations have found that South Yorkshire Police repeatedly failed those they had a duty to protect, and that this continued for decades. 

“CSE was treated as a low priority. Investigations were under-resourced. Officers were untrained and far too often, uncaring. The result was that potentially thousands of children were abandoned to abuse of the most shocking kind. These were institutional failures and institutional lessons must be learned. 

“I am also troubled that more officers have not been held accountable. It cannot be right that no officers have faced consequences for their actions.

“The publication of the IOPC’s (Independent Office for Police Conduct) full report, which is expected now to proceed, will be incredibly important. Victims and survivors deserve to know the full truth and I hope that the IOPC will deliver this.

“Whilst South Yorkshire Police has undoubtedly made profound improvements in its approach to CSE, there is still much further to go to ensure that all children are protected. Nor indeed can this be a finite development. Improvement must be an ongoing process and South Yorkshire Police must constantly strive to be better.

“Victims and survivors have waited far too long for those who failed them so badly to be held to account and I know that the outcome of these proceedings will be a bitter disappointment. 

“I want to pay tribute most of all to them for their bravery, their perseverance and for their strength. I will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with them to ensure that the terrible failures of the past can never be repeated.”