Police ill-equipped to fight child sex abuse due to budget cuts

Tighter financial restrictions and a lack of training are hampering efforts to address sex cases, say senior experts

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The Independent Online

The ability of police forces to deal with the sexual exploitation of children in the wake of the Rotherham and Savile scandals could be undermined by budget cuts, a police commissioner has warned.

England and Wales’ 43 police forces are preparing for spending reductions of 5 per cent in 2015/16, according to a BBC investigation.

After the Jimmy Savile scandal, police began a major inquiry into historical child abuse; numerous cases have also come to light in towns including Rochdale and Oxford. In an article for The Independent on Sunday, Dame Shirley Pearce, chair of the College of Policing, said police needed the “right professional skills” to deal with problems like child sexual exploitation.

Dame Shirley wrote: “If we are serious about delivering a professional police service we must ensure all members of the profession have the skills and confidence to ‘do the right thing’. This means addressing difficult questions about the educational framework that supports policing.”

 

Crime patterns, communities and communication have “all changed dramatically in the past 10 years”, and police need new skills to “prevent and respond to crime,” she said. But in South Yorkshire, where at least 1,400 children were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) has forecast cuts of £49m between 2016 and 2020.

And Greater Manchester’s PCC, Tony Lloyd, told BBC Breakfast: “We shouldn’t be cutting police [numbers] at this scale if we’re going to protect the vulnerable.” The warning was echoed last night by Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

A Home Office statement said: “While we acknowledge the police funding settlement is challenging there is no question the police will still have the resources to do their important work. What matters is how officers are deployed, not how many.”