Social workers, police and the Crown Prosecution Service “missed opportunities” to stop a child exploitation ring abusing young girls, a report into the scandal reveals.
The review was ordered in the aftermath of a trial which saw nine Asian men jailed for grooming young white girls for sex. It looked at how agencies including the council, police, NHS and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked between 2007 and 2012 to safeguard children and young people who were at risk of sexual exploitation.
The picture which emerges from the report is one of vulnerable young girls, who were being targeted for sexual abuse, being written off by those in authority who believed the girls were “making their own choices”.
Solicitor Jonathan Bridge, who is a legal representative to two of the girls in the Rochdale case, told Channel 4 News: “It is clear that a blind eye was turned to what was going on; children and their parents repeatedly looked to Rochdale social services and the police for help, but were ignored. The reasons for this remain unclear, but there is shocking inference that social services made a judgement about these children, adopting an attitude that they were making a “choice” to live this lifestyle. Considering some of the victims were as young as 12 years old, this is a dreadful and deplorable error.”
The review found that “deficiencies” in the way children’s social care responded to the victims’ needs in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were caused by “patchy” training of frontline staff, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its review into child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Rochdale Council said it has used the review’s findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements.
The review comes just days after The Times published a report which alleged that agencies in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, were aware of extensive and co-ordinated abuse of white girls by some Asian men and detailed a range of offences for which no-one has been prosecuted.
The council’s own review of internal processes and procedures will be published In October. Chief Superintendent Annette Anderson, divisional commander for Rochdale, said: “This report once again highlights the complex nature of child sexual exploitation and we acknowledge its findings.
“We have already stated that there were issues with an initial inquiry into CSE in Rochdale in 2008. However, the (Independent Police Complaints Commission) are currently supervising an investigation into that inquiry so it would be inappropriate for us to go into further details at this moment.
“What we can say is that GMP’s (Greater Manchester Police’s) force-wide approach to child sexual exploitation and child abuse in general has changed significantly over the last few years.
“Locally, with our partners at the council and the health service, Rochdale division now has formal working strategies to tackle head-on child exploitation.
“What cannot be lost, however, is that we are talking about the abuse of children by adults and it is the criminals themselves who take ultimate responsibility for their actions.”