Scotland politics

No Rotherham-scale abuse in Scotland, claims senior police officer

Systematic sexual abuse on the scale exposed in Rotherham is "absolutely not" happening in Scotland, a senior Police Scotland officer has said.

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham told MSPs there had been a large number of cases of child rape in Scotland in the past year.

However, he said there was no "extensive co-ordinating group" conducting abuse.

Mr Graham was addressing a Holyrood inquiry into child sexual exploitation.

He told the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee that around a quarter of the 1,590 rapes reported in Scotland last year were against children.

The charity Barnardo's has said that Scotland is similar to Rotherham in that there is no standardised reporting of child sexual exploitation that would give an indication of prevalence.

Last month Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo's Scotland, said: "If there is one fundamental lesson from Rotherham it is that we cannot be complacent about child sexual exploitation in Scotland."

Investigation unit

Police Scotland is to establish the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit, with the aim improving co-ordination and intelligence gathering.

Mr Graham, who has responsibility for major crime and public protection for Police Scotland, said: "A question I have been asked a lot is: is Rotherham happening in Scotland?

"The answer I give to that is: it depends what you mean by 'Rotherham'.

"There was such a large amount of information about the scale and prevalence of what was going on in Rotherham that so many people knew about, and the inference in the report is that there was active efforts for a long period of time to repress that.

"And if the question is: is that happening in Scotland? Absolutely not.

"There's absolutely nothing that has come to my attention of any large-scale or extensive co-ordinating group that are conducting child sexual exploitation on the scale described in that report, and if there had been we would be conducting investigations into it."

He told MSPs that there was sexual exploitation in Scotland but that police were "investigating it successfully in many cases".

Last year, there were 151 convictions where the victim was between 13 and 15, and 57 convictions where the child was under 13, with more cases still being processed.

A report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham by Prof Alexis Jay detailed how at least 1,400 children were subjected to abuse including rape, violence and trafficking for sex in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.

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