THOUSANDS of child sex abuse suspects were released without bail conditions across the country after the Government made changes to the bail act — but South Yorkshire Police has refused to say how many are from Rotherham.
Nationally, 2,993 child abuse suspects were released without bail conditions in the year after the Government made changes to the bail act — an increase of 1,047 per cent.
A panel of MPs led by Rotherham’s Sarah Champion said this would mean fewer suspects were prevented from contacting their accusers.
South Yorkshire Police (SYP) failed to respond to politicians’ requests under the Freedom of Information Act for pre-charge bail statistics as part of the cross-party inquiry into survivors’ experiences of the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Ms Champion, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse, said the drop in the number of suspects given pre-charge bail conditions presented a “huge risk to survivors, witnesses and the public”.
Nearly 400 survivors contributed to the inquiry and many said they were “losing faith in the criminal justice system” — which led to SYP reassuring victims that they will be listened to.
In the year after changes to the act, the number of people suspected of a sexual offence against a child released with pre-charge bail conditions fell by 56 per cent — from 4,657 to 2,036.
Across the 20 constabularies that provided information, 2,993 suspected child sexual offenders were released without conditions — termed as being “under investigation — in 2017/2018, compared to 261 the previous year — an increase of 1,047 per cent.
The APPG said this has “serious ramifications for the safety of survivors” as fewer suspects would be prevented by bail conditions from contacting complainants, or attending their home or workplace.
The report also found only 54 per cent of survivors had reported their abuse to police, with those not reporting citing their reasons as “not believing the police would successfully prosecute” (30 per cent) or “believing the police would be unsupportive” (27 per cent).
Survivors also voiced frustration about poor communication from the police, dehumanising language and confusion at the role of the CPS.
The inquiry said it recognised police were under strain from increased reporting and limited resources, noting a huge rise in reports of CSE offences over the past decade.
But Ms Champion said: “Our inquiry found overwhelming evidence of persistent failure by the police and CPS to support and secure justice for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.”
Survivors were “losing faith in the criminal justice system”, she said, and did not feel listened to by the police or CPS.
Ms Champion added: “I am particularly concerned that government bail changes in 2017 means a massive increase in suspected perpetrators are being released without any bail conditions before they are formally charged.”
The report calls for bail to be standard practice for CSE suspects and a “victim’s law” to strengthen survivors’ rights.
Det Chief Insp Joanne Bates moved to reassure victims of sexual abuse that they will be listened to by South Yorkshire Police.
She said the force was investing in its Protecting Vulnerable People (PVP) unit and there was a dedicated team investigating historic allegations, supporting victims and prosecuting offenders.