HULL CHILD SEX GROOMING: Case could be reopened after external officers review Humberside probe
A MAJOR child sexual grooming probe, which led to no charges after two years of investigation, could be re-opened following a review by police from other forces, Essex News and Investigations has learned. A year ago we revealed how victims of alleged widespread sexual grooming in Hull were left devastated after the investigation was wound down with no further action despite more than 30 people being arrested. Four women, now aged in their late teens and early 20s, told police they were groomed and sexually abused, sometimes in school uniforms, by groups of men between 2017 and 2019. There were 34 arrests from October 2019, but no one was charged before Humberside Police closed the case. In an interview last July DCS Phill Ward said the force believed the girls had been sexually abused as they described and up to 15 specialist officers and social workers had worked on the case. But, despite trawling through more than 10,000 text messages on over 200 mobile devices seized from suspects, officers had been unable to gather enough evidence for charges.
He said the investigation could be reopened if new evidence came forward. It has emerged that three months later in October 2021, Humberside Police asked officers from the national Operation Hydrant team to review the case. Operation Hydrant was set up in 2014 by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) to coordinate the police response to non-recent child sexual abuse. One of its remits is to learn from individual forces and develop best practice, while individual forces can ask for a "peer review" of their investigations for scrutiny of their strategy, victim engagement and media approach. A spokeswoman for Operation Hydrant said: "In October 2021 Operation Hydrant undertook a Peer Review session at Humberside Police following a request from the force. "As a result of this session Humberside commissioned a full evidential review in relation to alleged child sexual exploitation in Hull. "The review was completed earlier this year and a report is being prepared. "On completion, the report will be shared with Humberside Police. As it has not yet been submitted to the commissioning force it would be inappropriate to make further comment at this time." A Humberside Police spokesman said: "We engaged Operation Hydrant to conduct a full review of our investigation to see if they could identify any additional lines of inquiry for us to consider." The victims said they suffered abuse while at school or in care by several men, some involved in the taxi and takeaway trades, and told of being groomed and given drugs and alcohol, before being gang raped. One victim, who alleged to have been raped, trafficked and abused by more than 100 different men over three and a half years from the age of 13, said at the time: "We spent nearly two years doing days and days of meetings with police, video interviews, reliving all our trauma and doing identify parades seeing the men’s faces, all for it to be closed and over 30 men let free and able to carry on abusing young girls." The development comes after a series of three damning separate reports published in the last month identified major failings by police and social services in their handling of investigations into reports of similar historic child sex grooming across Rotherham, Oldham and Telford.