girl head hands
The report found evidence of "appalling" exploitation involving children as young as 11 Keirsten Marie on Flickr

South Yorkshire Police have announced that there will be an independent investigation into their handling of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham following the release of a highly critical report.

The force has assured they will investigate claims of sexual abuse "rigorously and with complete impartiality" following the publication of a report which revealed 1,400 children were abused in the town between 1997 and 2013.

The announcement was made as four members of the Labour party were suspended following the revelation of the scandal. There have also been calls for South Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright to resign following Professor Alexis Jay's findings.

Wright, who was head of Rotherham's children's services from 2005 to 2010, has apologised to the victims highlighted in the report but has refused to stand down from his current role.

Speaking of their intentions to review the handling of child abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton said: "A fully independent and impartial investigation is required to ensure that people have confidence that organisations or any individuals will be investigated fairly, rigorously and with complete impartiality.

"The investigation will properly and independently examine the role of both the police and council during the period identified and address any wrongdoings or failings, which will allow the appropriate action to be taken.

"We must give victims the confidence to come forward in the knowledge that all agencies will listen, will act, provide appropriate support, and relentlessly pursue those who offend against our young people."

Jay's damming report criticised the authorities for their "collective failures" which led to children being abused for 16 years.

Police were criticised for treating victims with "contempt" and it was said that council members were afraid to highlight that a majority of the perpetrators were Asian men for fear of being labelled racist.

Crompton said the force has begun discussions to identify an appropriate force to carry out the inquiry.

Assistant chief constable Ingrid Lee added: "We treat CSE with the utmost sensitivity and I urge anyone who has concerns about a child who could be at risk to come forward. Our officers will relentlessly pursue all evidence and do everything they can to achieve justice for victims and bring those responsible to justice.

"We cannot do this alone – we need the continued support of our communities and I urge anyone who is aware of a young person being sexually exploited to contact police so that we can protect those at risk.

"And to any victims who have not yet come forward, I encourage them to come forward in the confidence that they will be listened to, they will be taken seriously, and that support and care is available."

Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, has also called for South Yorkshire Police to refer themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission following the release of the report.