Greater Manchester Police have apologised to vulnerable girls across Rochdale and Heywood after failing to realise the extent of child sexual exploitation in the area… but not a single officer will be charged.
A review highlighted failures at ‘individual’ and ‘force’ level in the force’s investigation into the sexual exploitation of children between 2008 and 2010.
Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley insists GMP has learnt from its mistakes and is now better equipped to deal with future cases.
“We apologise to the victims and we give them our assurance that lessons have been learned, changes have been made and we are determined to use this to continue making improvements,” she said.
“Child sexual exploitation remains a huge challenge for GMP, but it is now one of our top priorities and our understanding and experience of dealing with these types of cases has increased significantly.”
Seven officers, including the former Divisional Chief Superintendent and two Detective Chief Inspectors, were served with misconduct notices after being formally interviewed about their roles in the investigation.
However, only one detective inspector, now retired, was described as having a ‘case to answer’.
Therefore, no punitive action will be taken against any officers and instead they will be offered further training.
Greater Manchester Police found more than 40 girls across Rochdale and Heywood were subjected to grooming by a network of men, mostly takeaway workers and taxi drivers, between 2008 and 2010.
In 2012, nine men were jailed for crimes including rape, trafficking and child sex abuse, with sentences ranging from four to 10 years.
Independent Police Complaints Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone said the report showed a focus on other areas of crime distracted officers from handling the case properly.
“Although nine offenders were eventually brought to justice by Greater Manchester Police, it is clear vulnerable young girls were let down by how police initially dealt with their concerns,” he said.
“It is appalling that young girls were being exploited and abused and the police did not handle it properly. Greater Manchester Police has admitted that the focus in Rochdale was on tackling volume crime such as robbery and burglary.
“The force simply did not recognise how to respond to child sexual exploitation on this scale.”
The case was first referred to the IPCC in December 2010, but this original investigation into sexual assaults on two girls did not lead to prosecution because the Crown Prosecution Service considered one victim’s allegation of abuse to be unreliable, the review said.
It was only after a second girl made similar claims in December 2009 that detectives began Operation Span into allegations of child sex abuse.
A second report was also rejected because it failed to address the lessons learnt from these events.
“It took a further three years and the commitment of significant resources to bring the abusers of these girls to justice,” said Commissioner Dipple-Johnstone.
“With hindsight we must question whether that could have been done sooner, thus preventing these vulnerable girls suffering further abuse.”
Image courtesy of GMP, with thanks.