The UK’s most extensive ever investigation into child abuse will not launch any new investigations from 2024, the National Crime Agency has said.
Operation Stovewood, which the NCA launched in 2014 after shocking revelations about rape gangs in Rotherham, has been investigating non-familial child sexual exploitation in the South Yorkshire town from 1997 to 2013.
A national inquiry by Prof. Alexis Jay found over 1,400 victims in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013. The NCA has since revised that figure to over 1,500.
Since 2014, NCA officers have made more than 200 arrests and secured 26 convictions, with more than 50 ongoing investigations.
But Rotherham abuse victim Elizabeth, not her real name, said that she feared that this “isn’t going to end well.”
She added: “I hope for the sake of every victim and their families that South Yorkshire Police are really up to the job.”
Jayne Senior, the whistleblower who exposed the scandal in Rotherham, told GB News: “My charity and I have had a positive relationship with the National Crime Agency. It’s difficult to know how things will look with South Yorkshire Police taking over because we’ve never had any contact with their child sexual exploitation team; we don’t know what their operations and investigations will look like.”
Senior added: “We hope they are as victim-focused, transparent and hard-working as the NCA officers have been.”
NCA Stovewood Head of Investigations Philip Marshall said that the force was not “walking away”:
“During the last nine years, we have identified more than 1,100 victims and made contact with as many of those as possible.
“Some, for entirely understandable reasons, have decided not to engage with us. We respect their decisions.
“We are now confident that we have done all we realistically can to identify those individuals who may have been victims during the Stovewood period.
“As a result, from the start of 2024, the NCA will no longer open any new investigations, and South Yorkshire Police will investigate any new allegations.
“This does not mean we are walking away. We will continue to investigate the cases we have already opened, and victims should know we will continue to treat them as a priority.
“We remain determined to seek justice for as many victims as possible, and we will continue to work with partners, including the CPS, to bring as many offenders to justice as possible.
“Both the NCA and South Yorkshire Police have determined this process should be as seamless as possible, and we’re confident that should anyone new come forward after 1st January, they will still be supported similarly.”