Detectives say they identified offenders and victims more than a decade ago but no action was taken, says ITV investigation
Child sex grooming gangs have avoided prosecution due to a failure by one of the country’s biggest police forces to pursue claims against them, it has been alleged, threatening to reignite the debate over institutional neglect of young victims of sexual abuse.
Greater Manchester police (GMP), the third largest force in England and Wales, has been accused by serving and former detectives of attempting to cover up failings to tackle gangs of Asian men who were abusing young girls, according to an ITV News investigation.
A former detective constable with the force has come forward to reveal she named and identified offenders and victims more than a decade ago in an internal report but no action was taken.
Responding to the claims, GMP chief constable Sir Peter Fahy told ITV that officers had developed a “mindset” that victims in sexual abuse cases were “unreliable” but, while this had since changed, it was still present within the courts.
As part of the investigation the father of a girl who gave evidence two years ago against a Rochdale gang, which was convicted of raping and trafficking young girls as young as 13, told the programme his daughter identified new suspects in a line-up but the force did not follow up with a prosecution.
He said his daughter was “promised” further arrests but “nothing else happened”.
The claims against GMP come just months after a damning report found at least 1,400 children were subjected to sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, with “blatant” collective failings by the council and South Yorkshire police blamed for the abuse.
In 2012, nine men were convicted of raping and trafficking young girls as young as 13 in Rochdale, which falls under the GMP catchment area. A serious case review by the Rochdale Safeguarding Children Board highlighted failures by 17 agencies, including GMP, who failed girls who were “passed around for sex”.
Former GMP Detective Constable Margaret Oliver told the programme she provided her bosses with information on alleged abusers and victims in an internal report written more than a decade ago but no one was charged.
Oliver said the problem is now an “epidemic”.
“Had we addressed it ten years ago I am in no doubt that we wouldn’t be seeing the problem in the volume it is now,” she said. “From that time to this time, we have had ten years where that problem has been allowed to develop and to grow and grow and grow.”
Another GMP detective, who has remained anonymous, looked at the issue six years later and revealed there was reluctance by senior officers to investigate sexual abuse claims despite her warnings the problem was spiralling out of control.
In a letter seen by ITV News, one serving officer claims there has been a “cover-up” and an internal report commissioned two years ago has been “re-written on nine separate occasions”.
Fahy, who has been GMP chief since September 2008, said: “We made mistakes in the past that some of our officers developed a sort of mindset that victims in these sorts of cases had been unreliable and I think that was also a mindset that developed within prosecutors as well.”
He said the mindset within the police force had changed but the court system “hadn’t really”.
A statement from the police force said: “Considerable resources are now invested in a number of ongoing investigations and we have already made clear that further arrests will be made.
“There have already been a number of major investigations across Greater Manchester relating to sexual abuse of children, including historic cases, which have led to convictions. These are complex and challenging investigations and we are committed to bringing offenders to justice.”
by Jamie Orme