A further 40 individuals have been arrested as part of Operation Stovewood.
Operation Stovewood was set up by the National Crime Agency (NCA) following the Jay Inquiry into the handling of child sexual exploitation reports in Rotherham. The Jay Inquiry was published in August 2014 and estimated that 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
By early 2018 Operation Stovewood had identified up to 1,500 potential victims and 110 suspects although those figures were expected to rise. At that point only 17% of potential victims had been contacted due to lack of resources including specially trained detectives. An inspection by the HMIC found that Operation Stovewood had about 100 fewer officers than the optimum staffing level.
To date there have been seven criminal trials (and 14 individuals convicted) relating to Operation Stovewood but this figure is expected to increase to 20+ with further court cases listed for this year.
The recent arrests relate to serious child sexual abuse and exploitation offences against 13 victims between 1997 and 2015. The victims were aged between 11 and 26. The individuals arrested were from Rotherham, Sheffield, Leeds, Dewsbury and Maidstone.
It appears that Operation Stovewood is gathering pace after a relatively slow start due to staffing issues. The NCA reported last week that they had spoken to 410 victims which demonstrates that whilst progress is being made there is still a great deal more to be done. We anticipate that the number of convictions will increase considerably over the next few years. This will inevitably lead to further civil cases – not just in Rotherham but also in neighbouring areas such as Sheffield and Leeds.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has its own investigation to consider child sexual exploitation. It has taken into account the previous investigations and inquiries including those relating to Rotherham and it will no doubt be watching the progress and outcome of Operation Stovewood with interest.
Nicholas Leigh, Associate, BLM