• Saturday, March 02, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Report calls out police inaction against Rochdale grooming gangs

The report highlights a concerning indifference from local authorities towards hundreds of identified potential victims of Asian men

Covering the years 2004 to 2013, the review specifically points out numerous failed investigations carried out by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) – Representative Image:iStock

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

A recent report has revealed that girls were left vulnerable to paedophile grooming gangs for an extended period due to the failures of senior police and council leaders.

Covering the years 2004 to 2013, the review specifically points out numerous failed investigations carried out by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) during that time, the BBC reported.

Additionally, the report highlights a concerning indifference from local authorities towards hundreds of identified potential victims of Asian men.

Greater Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham, who commissioned independent reviews after assuming office in 2017, described the victims as having been “badly failed.”

The review brought attention to the efforts of whistleblowers such as health worker Sara Rowbotham and former GMP detective Maggie Oliver, who faced criticism from authorities but raised concerns nonetheless.

The report, focusing on 111 cases in Rochdale from 2004 to 2013, revealed compelling evidence of widespread organised sexual exploitation of children.

It found that statutory agencies failed to respond appropriately, and the threat of child sexual exploitation (CSE) was not adequately addressed between 2004 and 2007.

The review indicated that at least 74 children were likely being sexually exploited, with serious failures to protect them in 48 of those cases. It concluded that CSE was a low priority and under-resourced by GMP.

Malcolm Newsam, the author of the review, said that GMP and Rochdale Council failed to prioritise the protection of sexually exploited children during the covered period.

He stated that lone voices, such as Rowbotham and her colleagues, had raised concerns for several years.

Mayor Burnham expressed his distress over the findings and issued an apology to the victims, acknowledging the system’s failure to protect them.

He said, “It is only by facing up fully and unflinchingly to what happened that we can be sure of bringing the whole system culture change needed when it comes to protecting children from abuse.”

Leaders at Rochdale Council and GMP reiterated previous apologies, emphasising ongoing investigations into historical cases.

The report’s authors noted that successful convictions had been made in recent years, but they represented only 13 of the believed 74 sexually exploited children, which they said was a “very small proportion.”

Oliver commented on the review, expressing her hope that it would lead to significant changes but criticised the agencies for having “failed generations of children” and pointed out the shocking numbers in the report.

“They’ve criminalised them, they’ve blamed them, they have ignored them, they have failed to prosecute their abusers adequately,” she said.

The timeline provided in the report highlights key events, including alerts by Rowbotham and her team in 2007 about a gang of Pakistani and Afghan men engaged in CSE, and also using children for their illicit drug deals which were not acted upon by GMP and Rochdale Council.

In 2008, a girl arrested on suspicion of damaging a takeaway reported being raped and sexually assaulted by its staff. An investigation failed to bring any charges but it identified widespread CSE involving at least 30 adults.

Another child provided evidence of sexual abuse at the same venues, but the detective responsible, neglected her account, leading to insufficient efforts to identify the perpetrator.

In 2010, matters were reinvestigated, resulting in the prominent conviction of nine men two years later in 2012. Following the conviction, both the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and GMP issued apologies for their previous failures.

In 2023, five men were sentenced for sexually exploiting two teenage girls between 2002 and 2006.

In 2025, another 29 suspects are scheduled to go on trial in connection with these cases.

Monday’s (15) review disagreed with GMP’s description in 2012 of the investigation at the time being “comprehensive and effective, mitigating threat risk and harm.”

It stated that the case was “a relatively limited offender-focused investigation that primarily addressed a small number of perpetrators who had not been prosecuted following the earlier disclosures in 2008.”

The report also revealed that Rowbotham and her team were unfairly criticised in serious case reviews for deviating from child protection procedures and inadequate communication with other agencies in two serious case reviews conducted by Rochdale Local Safeguarding Children’s Board in 2013.

The serious case reviews concentrated on the roles of various agencies concerning seven children subjected to severe and prolonged child sexual exploitation.

However, over a year before the publication of those two reports, the multi-agency CSE group, led by GMP, became aware of 127 potential victims referred by Rowbotham’s team that had not received attention.

Three months before the December 2013 publication of the reviews, the list had expanded to 260 potential victims.

Newsam said that Rowbotham was “unfairly criticised” in both serious case reviews.

The report also highlighted the failure to protect a vulnerable victim known as “Amber,” who gave significant evidence. Her crimes were not recorded by GMP, and she was included as a co-conspirator in the sexual exploitation of other children in a trial without her knowledge.

Amber was not notified and lacked the opportunity to defend herself against allegations that she consistently denied. The review team characterised this failure to safeguard a vulnerable victim as “deplorable.”

Eastern Eye

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