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381 sexual offences in South Yorkshire schools, only four charges

Over the last four years, hundreds of sexual offences in schools have been reported in South Yorkshire, with victims as young as 5.

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Educators.co.uk

381 sexual offences were reported in schools in South Yorkshire between January 2018 and November 2021, according to a Freedom of Information request to South Yorkshire Police. 108 of these took place in Sheffield, 84 in Barnsley, 101 in Doncaster and 91 in Rotherham.

The offences varied, although sexual offences against children are never minor. South Yorkshire Police was unable to differentiate between adult and child offenders for the purposes of this information, so perpetrators could be of any age. 12 boys and 23 girls reported rape at school over the four-year period.

Only four of the 381 reports resulted in a charge or a summons. In 88 cases, the victim did not support further action from the police, but in 65, the police or CPS decided not to proceed. In 57 of the incidents, a suspect was not identified, and in 29 cases, it was decided that it was not in the public interest to either further investigate or take further action. The below chart highlights the outcomes of the cases, as reported by South Yorkshire Police.

In nine of the reported offences, the victim was aged 5 or under and, in 39 cases, they were aged between 6 and 9. However, most victims were in the 10 – 15 age group: 333 cases.

While it is clear that not every reported offence would be proven if taken to court, to only issue a charge or summons in four out of 381 cases is desperately low. This failure to achieve justice for so many children, when they have experienced a sexual offence at such a young age, not only leaves others at risk by the perpetrators, it can also tell a victim that their experience was not valid, or was not bad enough to warrant justice. This can be detrimental to their mental health in the long term.

It is impossible that all 289 children whose cases were not charged or who did not refuse to continue the process themselves were lying.

An NSPCC spokesperson told Now Then:

For too many children, sexual violence is an everyday part of school life that they should not have to tolerate and it’s crucial that schools are confident to recognise and respond appropriately to all sexual behaviour.

This must involve working closely with safeguarding partners including local authorities, the NHS and, in some cases, the police so there is a consistent response to sexual violence that means all of the young people involved can access specialist, joined-up support services that can help them recover.

But the emphasis should also be to proactively work with children and young people to protect them from harm happening in the first place, whether that happens in school grounds or beyond the gates. It isn’t just responding to incidents after they occur or waiting for things to escalate until they are deemed serious.

These are offences that can affect somebody for the rest of their life, and must be taken seriously by schools, by the police and CPS, and by children themselves, as well as their families. With greater public awareness of the importance of consent than ever before, children must be better protected, child and adult perpetrators must be tackled and support services appropriately funded.

Learn more

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or via www.childline.org.uk, and any adult who has experienced sexual abuse in childhood or is concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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