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Operation Alphabet Learning Lessons Phil Ashford Sexual Exploitation Service Manager.

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Presentation on theme: "Operation Alphabet Learning Lessons Phil Ashford Sexual Exploitation Service Manager."— Presentation transcript:

1 Operation Alphabet Learning Lessons Phil Ashford Sexual Exploitation Service Manager

2 Session Objectives Overview of the case Vulnerability of the witnesses Multi-agency support The trials Media interest Ongoing issues

3 Origins of the Operation Sexual Exploitation Service cases. Mapping exercises. South Yorkshire Police problem profile – January Identification of Amanda Spencer as ‘common denominator’ in cases. Offences date from 2008.

4 Objectives of the Operation Protect children who may be the victim of sexual exploitation. Prevent offending from taking place, in conjunction with partner agencies. Confirm or disprove Spencer's involvement in facilitation of organised child sexual exploitation. Secure and preserve evidence to arrest and prosecute those involved in child sexual exploitation.

5 Multi-Agency Approach Police responsible for research, evidence gathering and arrest/disruption of offending. Partners responsible for sharing relevant information, victim engagement and support.

6 Victim of Interest

7 Person of Interest

8 Initial Approach to Victims 48 individuals identified as victims of interest. Police officer and identified professional make initial approach to victim. 17 victims identified through this process.

9 Vulnerability of the Victims Looked after children. Involved in criminality. Mental health issues. Teenage pregnancy – removal of child. Victims of historic sexual abuse.

10 Effect on the Victims In custody. Ongoing mental health issues. Self-harm. Drug & alcohol issues. Homelessness. Vulnerable adults.

11 Multi-Agency Support Once decision to charge made, meetings set up to agree support for victims. South Yorkshire Police victim support officers. Social Care, health, youth justice and voluntary sector involved in support. Additional support from sexual exploitation service.

12 Support Measures Crisis intervention – I need help now Structured work – Issue based Practical support – Attending appointments/ providing for basic needs. Supporting victims through the process. 24 hour support.

13 Lead up to the Trial Pre-court visits. Managing expectations. Special measures – curtains. Waiting room. ‘Chill-out’ room at Star House. Supporters in court.

14 The Trial Two separate trials. First trial commenced in January First trial subject to media reporting ban. Little or no forensic evidence. Victim testimony crucial to case. After 6 week trial Ian Foster found guilty. Sentencing delayed by second trial.

15 The Trial Second trial began February Same judge presided over both trials. Witness intimidation. Possible conflict at court. No media restrictions. One defendant died during trial. Aggressive defence counsel.

16 The Trial Trial lasted 11 weeks. Foster and Amanda Spencer found guilty. Three other accused acquitted. Sentencing carried out in May Total of 26 years in prison – 14 years for Foster, 12 years for Spencer.

17 Statistics 66 counts on final indictment. 30 counts guilty, 23 no verdict reached, 11 not guilty verdicts. 13 of the 17 victims had their offences proven at court.

18 Media Attention Media interest following on from Operation Yewtree and other cases across the country. Media attention specifically focused on Spencer – female offender. Interest in speaking with victims post- court.

19 Comments in the Press “Trash like her thrive in prison.” “It certainly makes a change for a woman to be sent to prison these days although the sentence was rather light.” “If it's any consolation to her victim's - this vile thing will be spending many years in a prison which will be full of mothers - they will be disgusted with her and her sentence will hopefully seem like a lifetime!!!.....” “That's one messed up young lady.”

20 Ongoing Issues ‘Filling the void’ left by the trial. Exit strategy for the victim support officers. Ongoing support to meet victims’ needs. Criminal injuries compensation claims. Therapeutic support for the victims. Case review.

21 Comments “I have spent four very depressing months listening to these young women relive the horror of their young lives” “Never have I seen so many vulnerable victims in one case” “I have absolutely no sympathy for your heartless exploitation of young vulnerable girls. They didn’t have much of a childhood but what they had, you spoiled” “They looked up to you, they regarded you as their friend and protector. Unfortunately, what they found in you was not a protector but an exploiter” “You are an arrogant and determined paedophile” “The sentences have to be commensurate with the evil you have shown in these cases.” “Exceptional investigative diligence’ adding the case was a ‘model of its kind”

22 Comments SENIOR INVESTIGATING OFFICER DCI ROBERT CHAPMAN: “The investigation was one of the most complicated and lengthy the force had ever conducted” CLOSING SPEECH PROSECUTING BARRISTER MICHELLE COLBORNE QC: “It’s hard to believe that children can go missing but not be missed. That exploitation has been so rife here” ALPHABET VICTIM: “Mentally, it’s the nightmares that get to me. You’re not sleeping so you’re thinking about it all the time. I spent a long time pretending it never happened

23 Questions


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