West Yorkshire Police Commissioner ‘shocked’ by scale of child exploitation

Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson.
Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire Mark Burns-Williamson.

West Yorkshire Police Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson has said he is shocked by the scale of child exploitation.

Mr Burns-Williamson said he met with Deputy Chief Constable Dee Collins yesterday to discuss the issue and seek reassurances that West Yorkshire Police is following the correct procedure in tackling the crime.

In a statement issued today, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “No-one could have been more shocked and horrified at the scale of child sex exploitation that has been highlighted in Professor Alexis Jay’s report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham and at the failure of those agencies, whose responsibility it is to keep our children safe, to act.

“All those young people whose lives have been devastated should have been supported and protected and the information received and held should have been acted upon to protect our most vulnerable victims and ensure the perpetrators of this horrendous crime were punished.

“Victims and witnesses, in particular those who are most vulnerable, should always come first and any young person who has been a victim or a witness of this sexual exploitation should have the confidence to come forward, trust that their voice will be heard and be justified in believing that the responsible authorities will make sure they and others are kept safe.

“Yesterday I met with the Deputy Chief Constable here in West Yorkshire to seek reassurances that all the recommendations contained in the Independent Inquiry into CSE in Rotherham are, where applicable, implemented and embedded in the work of West Yorkshire Police, have requested an update on the 65 live investigations ongoing in West Yorkshire but also be assured that everything is being done by the police locally to tackle Child Sex Exploitation (CSE) here. I have also requested that the recommendations from the HMIC crime data integrity inspection to be actioned and for future assurances that crimes are being recorded and categorised correctly.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner I have set out my vision for making sure all our communities are safer and feel safer and tackling CSE as well as other important safeguarding issues are priorities within my Police and Crime Plan.

“I have already made an extra £3.5m available to the police for increased capacity to deal with CSE, human trafficking and cyber crime, have provided funding for more staff dedicated to dealing with rape and serious sexual offences and protected the numbers of Neighbourhood Policing Teams as well including Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) who are working day in day out in our communities to keep us all safe in new partnership co-located teams.

“I have met with victims of CSE and their families, supported the charities and community groups delivering on the ground and organised two conferences to increase understanding and awareness and to develop a more cohesive approach to CSE.

“I will continue to work with West Yorkshire Police and other partners, including with our communities, and in light of this damning report will be organising an urgent meeting of all those who are responsible for safeguarding to make sure that working together all our children and vulnerable victims are kept safer and protected from those who seek to exploit them.

“Protecting our communities from CSE remains one of my top priorities and I fully support WYP Know the Signs Campaign that highlights CSE issues and encourages victims to support it which has been nationally recognised.

“I also support the call for a national overarching inquiry into historical child sex abuse, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in July, that will look at how seriously public bodies and other institutions have taken their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.”