Rotherham grooming gang detective cleared of failing to act on intelligence

David Walker was accused of ignoring important information in the Rotherham grooming gang investigation

Published

An ex-police sergeant has been cleared of failing to act on information supplied to him about alleged child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham by a panel who said he “took entirely appropriate action” and was “hardworking, diligent and professional in his approach”.

Jayne Senior, who ran the Risky Business youth project and who was a key whistleblower in the CSE scandal which engulfed the town, told a police misconduct hearing that former detective sergeant David Walker ignored important information she supplied to him.

But Mr Walker, who ran the Rotherham child abuse investigation unit from 2008 to 2012, denied he had not acted on nor properly recorded intelligence Ms Senior supplied, telling the hearing how he was dedicated to protecting children and even led one of the most successful operations against grooming gangs operating in the area.

On Thursday, a three-strong panel chaired by an independent lawyer cleared the former detective of all the allegations he faced.

Panel chairman Simon Mallett said Mr Walker was a “dedicated, committed and passionate police officer” who was leading a unit which was struggling under a massive workload without the right support.

Mr Mallett said: “They were overworked and under resourced.”

He said: “The staff lacked the training, guidance and direction that should have been provided by the (South Yorkshire) force.

“Overall, there were systemic failings in the work of the unit and this has been accepted by the force.”

Mr Walker told the hearing on Monday how he found himself overseeing up to 180 cases at any time, with 35 new referrals a week, with most of these involving alleged serious offences up to, and including, child rape.

He said it was “ludicrous” to suggest that he showed no interest in following up information supplied to him.

Mr Mallett said in his conclusions: “There is no suggestion that this officer has deliberately or maliciously ignored information that has been passed to him nor do we find that he ignored information from Jayne Senior.”

He added: “The officer took entirely appropriate action to deal with the information.”

Police tape at an address in Livingston, West Lothian after Denis and Mary Fell (both aged 73) were found dead in the house on Boxing Day. Picture date: Tuesday December 28, 2021.
Police tape at an address in Livingston, West Lothian after Denis and Mary Fell (both aged 73) were found dead in the house on Boxing Day. Picture date: Tuesday December 28, 2021.

Mr Walker was accused of failing to investigate information that teenage sisters were having sex with workers from a car wash, and that a council youth worker was passing names of vulnerable girls to potential sex offenders.

Mr Mallett said it had not been proved “that this officer has taken any action which falls below the accepted practice at the time”.

He said: “Indeed, the evidence at this hearing shows the contrary.

“A careful review of the evidence at this hearing has led to a very clear conclusion by the panel as to this officer’s action.

“This officer has been hardworking, diligent and professional in his approach to his work.”

Giving evidence earlier this week, Mr Walker explained that, when he started supervising the unit “there was no training, there was no guidance, there was no handover”.

The former officer said he was passionate about protecting children but told the panel: “I wasn’t a one-stop shop for CSE.

“We were all a cog in a wheel.”

He criticised Ms Senior and Risky Business’s approach to children who made allegations, saying it led to repeated questioning of youngsters which was “abusive”.

The ex-detective said he made it “crystal clear” to Ms Senior that he could promise police action on every piece of information she provided or his unit would have ground to a halt.

Mr Mallett said it was not the role of panel to resolve the different views of the issues held by Mr Walker and Ms Senior.

But he said: “The panel also recognises and would like to acknowledge the considerable work of Jayne Senior in exposing the inadequate police response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham at the time.”

The former South Yorkshire police officer is one of 47 officers and former officers who were investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in the wake of the 2014 Jay Report, which described how at least 1,400 children in the town had been subjected to CSE by gangs of men in Rotherham.