Oldham child sex abuse victims failed by police and council, report says

20th June, 2022 12:37 pm

Children in Oldham were failed by the agencies meant to protect them from sexual abuse, a review has found.

The independent inquiry was set up after allegations circulated on social media that Oldham Council was covering up what it knew about grooming gangs in the town.

Investigators said there were structural flaws in Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and the council’s systems which were meant to safeguard children.

There was no evidence of a cover-up.

The major report examined the way child sexual exploitation was tackled between 2011 and 2014, and found procedures were not properly followed.

It investigated the alleged grooming of children in council homes, shisha bars and by taxi drivers in Oldham and concluded there was no evidence of “widespread” child sex abuse in those settings or a cover-up but it does point out other serious failings.

‘Abhorrent crimes’

GMP and Oldham Council said they were “deeply sorry” to all those affected.

The review found the authorities had failed some children, notably citing the case of one girl identified only as “Sophie”, who was abused aged just 12, after “significant opportunities missed” to protect her.

She went to Oldham police station to report being raped by an Asian man in October 2006 and was told to come back when she was “not drunk”.

The girl was instead taken from the police station in a car and raped inside the vehicle, then taken to a house and raped multiple times by five different men.

The report also details how Shabir Ahmed, the ring-leader of a notorious grooming gang in Rochdale, was employed by Oldham Council as a welfare rights officer and seconded to the Oldham Pakistani Community Centre.

Despite multiple concerns being raised about him and his arrest for the sexual assault of children, police failed to tell his employers.

“If this had happened, it may have potentially avoided the tragic abuse of other children…,” the report states, citing “serious multiple failures” by both GMP and the local authority.

Ahmed, identified only as “Offender A” in the report, is now serving a 22-year jail sentence.

The report found the quality of work had been “generally very poor” in ten sample cases where child sexual exploitation concerns had been raised – including a failure to initiate multi-agency child protection procedures.

It also said the council and GMP have agreed to review the management of those cases and “consider whether any further action can now be taken in respect of the men who exploited these children”.

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Key findings

  • GMP and Oldham Council failed to protect some children from grooming and sexual exploitation
  • Significant opportunities to protect a girl identified as “Sophie”, who was abused aged just 12, were missed
  • No evidence found of a cover-up by the authorities
  • No “widespread” child sex abuse found in council homes, shisha bars and by taxi drivers
  • Police failed to tell council about arrest of Rochdale grooming gang leader who was employed as welfare rights officer
  • Casework by police and social care was “very poor” in ten sample cases
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Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the report had “identified a number of wrongs that needed to be put right”.

“There were serious failings and victims were let down, particularly Sophie”, he said, adding: “I will also fully support any actions to prosecute those responsible for these abhorrent crimes and [hold] to account those whose behaviour fell short of what we require.”

‘Ongoing trauma’

He added: “Whilst there was no evidence of a cover-up, we must not flinch from acknowledging shortcomings.”

GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson, who was appointed last year after his predecessor quit following a damning review of the force, said: “I want to offer my sincere apologies to everyone affected by the events considered in the report.

“Our actions fell far short of the help that they had every right to expect and were unacceptable.

“I am sorry for the hurt and ongoing trauma they have suffered because of what happened to them.”

Oldham Council Leader Amanda Chadderton said she was “deeply sorry” that “our services at the time were not good enough to protect vulnerable young people suffering the most awful abuse”.

She added: “The way we work has already moved on immeasurably”.

The 202-page report is authored by Malcolm Newsam, a renowned child care expert, and Gary Ridgeway, a former detective superintendent with Cambridgeshire Police.

The pair were behind Operation Augusta which examined the handling of child sexual exploitation by the police and social services in Manchester, following the death in 2003 of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia.

The inquiry found police and social workers knew children were suffering “the most profound abuse… but did not protect them”.

Source: BBC.co.uk

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