Inspectors have blasted South Yorkshire Police - already under fire for their role in the Rotherham child abuse scandal - for their failure to properly deal with vulnerable children in care homes, it has emerged.

In a report, the South Yorkshire Police force were accused of having a "limited understanding" of the risks posed by offenders who target vulnerable children.

The review from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) pointed to one case where officers failed to protect three young girls after they were reported missing from care homes and were sexually assaulted by several men.

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Earlier this year, Professor Alexis Jay launched a blistering attack on the South Yorkshire Police for failing to protect at least 1,400 children abused in Rotherham over a 16-year period.

She criticised officers for "regarding many child victims with contempt".

In HMIC's report, the South Yorkshire force was again found to have failed to stop men from grooming and sexually exploiting young girls.

Inspector of Constabulary Dru Sharpling said:

We are concerned that force practice is inconsistent so not all children receive the standard of treatment they deserve.

Dru Sharpling
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright resigned on September 16 over the first scandal. Credit: PA

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South Yorkshire Police welcomed the recommendations of the inspection and said inconsistencies highlighted by the report regarding the force's response to child sexual exploitation were being addressed.

Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee said steps being taken to address the issues included a central referral unit for referrals relating to children, multi-agency teams in every district, a liaison officer to engage with children in care in Doncaster, known sex offenders given polygraph tests and more information about child sex offenders and domestic abuse being shared with the public.

Ms Lee said:

We understand the complexities of child sexual exploitation and we don't shy away from difficult investigations. All victims receive the highest standards of service possible.

Ingrid Lee