The United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency (NCA) has made 15 more arrests in connection with Operation Stovewood, the agency’s inquiry into allegations of child abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
“All were questioned and released while investigations continue,” the NCA said in a statement on Oct. 16.
The new series of arrests are related to three cases.
Nine of the men, who range in age from 36 to 49 and are accused of raping one victim between 2003 and 2008, were arrested between Oct. 7 and Oct. 15.
Five others between the ages of 29 and 62 were arrested on Oct. 13 and Oct. 15 in the second case, which involves two victims allegedly abused between 2007 and 2009.
A 51-year-old man, who is suspected in “a series of serious sexual offences against a 14- or 15-year-old girl” in 2008, was arrested on Oct. 10.
More than 190 people have been questioned in the investigation, NCA regional head of investigations Rob Burgess said on Oct. 16.
“We have also worked with policing and local authority partners to take safeguarding action protecting around 40 children in just the last two weeks,” he said. “This is an important part of our work and often goes unheralded.”
He said the NCA continues to reach out and appeal for victims or witnesses to come forward.
“Our investigation is victim-focused, and we’re interested in speaking to anyone who might have information to help investigations into child sexual abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. Victims will be supported,” he said.
Rotherham is one of a number of British towns and cities in which widespread sexual grooming of young girls has been brought to light in recent years. It was estimated that 1,400 children, most of them white girls, were sexually abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, despite police and local lawmakers being made aware of the abuse.
Children were groomed, trafficked, and raped across the UK, but offenders weren’t prosecuted, reportedly owing to fears around race.
“Children were sexually exploited by men who came largely from the Pakistani heritage community,” according to a 2015 government-commissioned report into the abuses. “Not enough was done to acknowledge this, to stop it happening, to protect children, to support victims, and to apprehend perpetrators.
“The council’s culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression, and misplaced ‘political correctness’ have cemented its failures.”
The first convictions related to Operation Stovewood occurred on Nov. 16, 2017, as three men were convicted of 15 counts of sexual abuse against a girl under the age of 14.
John Smithies and Simon Veazey contributed to this report.