UK police left children at mercy of grooming gang paedophiles, review finds

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jan 15, 2024 at 01:39 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

For years, girls in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were left at the mercy of paedophile grooming gangs due to an “inadequate” response from police and council bosses, as revealed in a newly released report. The findings highlight a disturbing pattern of failings by authorities, revealing a systemic breakdown in addressing and preventing child exploitation in the region.

The Rochdale grooming scandal, detailed in a damning 173-page review spanning from 2004 to 2013, sheds light on a distressing narrative of systematic failures by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and other local authorities.

The report, authored by Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway, co-authors of previous reports on grooming in Manchester and Oldham, highlights the stark inadequacies in both police investigations and local authority responses. The victims, mainly young white girls from poor backgrounds, were identified as potential victims of abuse by Asian men. The report underscores the gravity of the situation, emphasising that “children were left at risk, and many of their abusers to this day have not been apprehended.”

One of the primary findings of the review is the insufficiency of police operations launched during this period. Successive efforts, while initiated, lacked the necessary resources to match the scale of the widespread organised exploitation occurring in the Rochdale area.

The report identifies a disturbing number of men, 96 in total, who are still considered a potential risk to children. However, it stresses that this figure represents only a fraction of those involved in the abuse, underscoring the systemic failure to address the full scope of the issue.

During a press conference on Monday 15 January, Chief Constable Stephen Watson of Greater Manchester Police issued a public apology for the failures in addressing grooming in Rochdale. Expressing profound regret, Watson acknowledged the core responsibility of the police to protect the vulnerable from the cruel and predatory, admitting: “In this regard, we failed you.” He then continued: “We remain determined to do all that we can to bring offenders to justice.”

The review also delves into specific instances where investigations were prematurely terminated or inadequately pursued. In 2007, a Crisis Intervention Team alerted GMP and Rochdale Council to the presence of an organised crime group involved in child exploitation. However, the investigation was halted because children were deemed too frightened to assist, a decision described as a “serious failure.”

Further revelations point to a pattern of ignoring the coercion and control that groomers exerted over their victims and their families. Despite evidence of organised industry targeting vulnerable young children for sexual abuse, authorities justified their inaction by citing the unwillingness of children to make formal complaints.

The report highlights the crucial roles played by whistleblowers Sara Rowbotham and Maggie Oliver, whose efforts were showcased in the 2017 BBC One documentary The Betrayed Girls. The authors commend them as “lone voices” who had flagged the clear evidence of “prolific serial rape of countless children in Rochdale.”

The event also drew attention to a lamentable strategic failure by senior leaders in GMP and Rochdale Council. The scale of abuse was known to senior and middle managers in both the police and children’s social care, but the issue was not given sufficient priority. The report asserts that this failure should be firmly laid at the door of the senior officers in GMP throughout the period under review.

As Rochdale reckons with the aftermath of this deeply disturbing chapter, the report underscores the need for accountability, justice, and a commitment to prevent these systemic failures from continuing. The revelations serve as a stark reminder of the imperative to protect the vulnerable and hold those in positions of authority accountable for their actions—or inactions.

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