Nothing was done about child sexual exploitation in South Yorkshire because the girls involved were seen as prostitutes, a police commissioner has said.
Alan Billings, police and crime commissioner for the local force, said “it all went wrong” because police did not understand what grooming was or that it was child abuse.
Billings was speaking after reports revealed that police were warned 10 years ago about the extent of the problem in South Yorkshire but did nothing about it.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think any of us at that time understood what grooming was and that this was grooming.
“I think we saw these girls not as victims but as troublesome young people out of control and willing participants. We saw it as child prostitution rather than child abuse, and I think that was broadly accepted and that’s why it all went wrong.”
Billings said police were prioritising burglary and car theft because of public demands at the time.
He added that the problem was a cultural issue, which went beyond South Yorkshire police.
A report by Prof Alexis Jay published last August revealed that at least 1,400 children were raped, trafficked and groomed in Rotherham.
“Police saw Rotherham child sex abuse victims as prostitutes, says PCC”