Police in Bradford are actively investigating 140 cases of historic sex abuse, the Telegraph & Argus can reveal.
And the detective in charge of the Bradford District Safeguarding Unit has vowed there is no hiding place for offenders, regardless of how much time has elapsed since the crimes were committed.
Since the unit was formed three years ago, the prosecutions it has secured has led to sentences totalling more than 450 years being imposed by the courts on paedophiles and other sex offenders.
Among those prosecutions was international pianist John Briggs, who was jailed for eight years last February by a judge at Bradford Crown Court after he was found guilty by a jury of a string of sexual abuse against five boys.
The latest was a former primary school caretaker who was jailed for ten years last week for sexually and physically abusing a young girl when he was a teenager in Bradford in the late 1960s.
Married father-of-two Donald Flood, now 59, of Arthington Lane, Otley, physically assaulted the girl when she was aged five, but within two years the offences had escalated to rape and indecent assault, the jury at the city’s Crown Court was told.
Detective Inspector Vanessa Smith, who leads the team of officers in the safeguarding unit, has pledged the voices of children who have suffered sexual abuse at any time in the past will be heard.
“My message to offenders is that you might be getting away with it now, but it will come back,” she said. “That offenders have been convicted for such a total number of years is very significant and reflects the gravity in which the courts view acts towards children
.”For a crime to be classed as ‘historic’ it must have been committed at least 28 days previously and can often date back decades.In the case of Briggs, 65, of East Morton, his offending involved the grooming and sexual abuse of two young piano students and three members of Keighley Sea Cadets between 1969 and 1993.
The offences came to light many years later when one by one his victims went to police to lodge complaints against him.
Another Bradford paedophile Barry Willoughby, 46, was jailed for seven years in March this year after he was found guilty of sexually abusing two girls in the 1980s by a jury at Bradford Crown Court.
He had been living a new life working on cruise ships and then as a casino worker in the US but was tracked down through the internet by one of his victims, now a married woman, and was successfully extradited by West Yorkshire Police to face justice.
Det Insp Smith said: “The team worked tirelessly with the US authorities to secure Willoughby’s extradition, and in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ensure he faced justice for his crimes.”
She added: “Convictions such as these reflect the hard work and determination by police and the CPS to bring offenders to justice; no matter how historic the offence, and we would encourage others to come forward and speak with the team, who will sensitively and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual abuse.”
Det Insp Smith said there were many reasons as to why people decide to speak out. “It is usually where the victim has become empowered through age, maturity or through counselling. Or they may have discovered that a similar thing happened to a friend or relative,” she said.
Sometimes the victim might speak to a third party, but might not yet wish to speak to the police.Det Insp Smith said: “We try to make contact, possibly through our colleagues in social care, a teacher, or other agencies. I’m always mindful that if we have a named perpetrator and they have access to children, it can be a balance between adhering to the wishes of the victim and protecting the public.
“We seek the views of the victim before taking any action. We want them to have empowerment. Over many years that may be seen by the victim as having been taken away from them."