TOP cops who policed Rotherham over the 16-year period in which the Jay Report said 1,400 children were sexually exploited are being investigated by the police watchdog.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will look into whether chief superintendents, chief constables, assistant chief constables and deputy chief constables who worked for South Yorkshire Police (SYP) between 1997-2013 failed in their statutory duty to protect children.
It is the first time ever that a police force’s entire senior command team has come under investigation by the police watchdog — which investigates the most serious allegations against forces.
The inquiry by its major investigations team has been launched after complaints by Rotherham child abuse whistleblowers Jayne Senior and Dr Angie Heal to SYP’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) about its former top officers were ignored.
The whistleblowers appealed the force’s decision to not investigate its former leaders to the IOPC, which has now upheld their complaint.
The whistleblowers said they were “nearly in tears” after hearing the news and described it as “a step in the right direction”, but believe the only way forward would be to disband South Yorkshire Police and establish a Yorkshire-wide force.
The probe will form part of the IOPC’s Operation Linden which is investigating 33 former and current police officers.
Mrs Senior said: “I gave my first piece of information about child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham to SYP in 1999. By 2001/2002 senior officers were aware of what was going on.”
Dr Heal, a former SYP drugs analyst, said the reports she had presented to the force in the early 2000s were “described at the time by one chief superintendent as some of the best intelligence reports he had ever seen”.
Dr Heal added: “My reports were mainly about drugs, but I would always try and get CSE on the agenda whenever I could because of the links between the two.”
Former top cops who could come under fire include former chief constables Mike Hedges, Med Hughes and David Crompton.
Mrs Senior added: “This town has never had any answers. The very first page of the Jay Report mentions Angie’s reports and that the senior command team knew about the scale of CSE in Rotherham.”
The pair said they had submitted more than 25 complaints to the force’s PSD in the last year urging an investigation into senior officers.
Mrs Senior said: “They’ve tried everything to dismiss our complaints. We’ve been given every reason why they would not investigate — I was told I couldn’t complain because I wasn’t a victim, I hadn’t been adversely affected by CSE, the issue was over 12 months old. Angie was told she couldn’t complain because she was a former SYP employee.”
Mrs Senior said the PSD had told them they could only look into investigating officers and not their superiors as they did not investigate crimes.
Dr Heal said the force had seemed keen under Mr Crompton’s reign of moving an inquiry forward, “but then Stephen Watson was appointed and it all changed”.
She added: “They are protecting the senior command team to protect their reputation — it’s easier for them to blame junior officers.”
Mrs Senior added: “What they have got is a complaints system that doesn’t allow you to complain.
“I thought when Alexis Jay exposed this to the world we would have a complete change in attitude — but there isn’t.”
Mrs Senior said: “We try to speak truth to power but there’s so many blocks in place and nobody has ever been answerable or put their hand up in a senior position and said that they knew about CSE in Rotherham and didn’t tell anyone — and that’s self protection and protecting their own organisation.
“But out there, there are 1,400 people whose childhoods were destroyed and they deserve an answer.
“Why did nobody act? Why did nobody do anything? Why was nobody investigated?
“We’ve got over 300 years in prison for perpetrators in historical cases — why weren’t they investigated 15 years ago?”
Dr Heal added: “No new evidence was used in the recent trials, so why didn’t they do it at the time?”
A survivor known as “Elizabeth” who has recently seen her abuser jailed, added: “That’s what I can’t understand, all the information used throughout my trial was there then at the time it happened.”
A spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said: “We continue to work with the IOPC in relation to their investigation into non-recent allegations of child sexual abuse in Rotherham.
“While we are awaiting the exact parameters of their investigation, it is independent and ongoing and as such it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”