A recent review of the police and council in Rochdale has revealed that Greater Manchester police (GMP) conducted a DNA test on the aborted fetus of a 13-year-old who was a victim of grooming. This was done without informing the girl or her parents, leading to significant criticism.
The discovery is part of a collection of unacceptable shortcomings outlined in the most recent section of an independent review that examined the actions taken by GMP and other organizations to address child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester. The report, which spans 173 pages, was requested by Andy Burnham upon his initial election as mayor in 2017 and focuses on the time period from 2004 to 2013.
At least 96 individuals have been identified as potential threats to children, but the majority have not yet faced consequences. GMP’s chief constable, Stephen Watson, apologized to the victims and assured them that the men responsible will face consequences, even if they have not been arrested yet.
Other findings include:
When the cases were brought to court, GMP failed to protect the young victims from being “harassed and intimidated by the men who had previously abused them”, sometimes under threat of violence.
The GMP did not intervene in the situation involving a 15-year-old girl who became pregnant and gave birth to a child fathered by her “pimp”.
A child reported to GMP that her abusers would confine girls in cages and force them to imitate a dog or dress up as a baby. However, GMP did not take any action after the child left Greater Manchester and was placed in foster care elsewhere.
Amber, a victim of poor practice, was arrested and then released to live with a man who had previously been arrested for suspicion of grooming. This is an unacceptable example of poor judgment.
The Crown Prosecution Service, in collaboration with GMP, made the decision to identify Amber as a co-conspirator in the exploitation of minors during a trial against her abusers. This action is described by the authors as a “reprehensible continuation of abuse” towards a survivor of child sexual exploitation.
The most recent evaluation, the third out of four, uncovered strong proof of extensive organized CSE in Rochdale beginning in 2004. This went unnoticed due to inadequate resources in successive GMP operations.
According to the report’s writers, child protection expert Malcolm Newsam and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway, a deficient reaction from GMP and [Rochdale council’s] children’s social care resulted in children being vulnerable to their abusers.
Burnham expressed his disappointment that five GMP officers, including an assistant chief constable, and the head of children’s services at Rochdale council, either refused or failed to respond to a request for interview during the review. He deemed their actions as “unacceptable”.
Maggie Oliver, a whistleblower for GMP, expressed approval for the review. However, she noted that victims in Greater Manchester and other areas continue to face mistreatment and lack of belief when reporting these heinous crimes, resulting in being judged and dismissed.
The authors strongly condemned the treatment of a girl, referred to as Child 44, by the police. In 2009, at the age of 13, she had an abortion and was only informed in 2011 that the police had taken her foetus.
In March 2009, officials retrieved the fetus from Rochdale hospital. However, they did not take any immediate steps when the DNA did not match any potential suspects in the ongoing investigation.
The unborn baby was subsequently stored in a freezer at Rochdale police station and was not remembered until a routine check of property at a later date. During this time, the young girl was continuously victimized and at one point was in danger of being brought to Pakistan by her abusers.
She expressed to the writers of the report that she found it “repulsive” that the baby’s remains were taken without her permission and accused the police of “stealing” from her.
The young woman eventually testified in a 2012 court case, but was deeply upset that the man who got her pregnant at the age of 13 was not prosecuted for rape. He received a sentence of eight years for involvement in a criminal conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation. He was released on parole after serving only four years.
During her trial, Child 44 reported being threatened at gunpoint by a man. However, she received no protection after the trial.
She recounted being pursued by males in vehicles and encountering her perpetrator in a Rochdale Asda store four or five years after the trial.
“She stated that she was not aware he had been released from prison. She was not notified or given the opportunity to object to his release. She frequently encounters many of the men who abused her in the Rochdale area.”
The authors of the review asked Child 44 about the police’s response, and she stated: “They did not. They simply advised to lock your door.”
Child Three, who was also a victim, shared the devastating consequences of testifying against her abusers.
During her second pregnancy, she discovered upon returning home that her house had been vandalized. The words “slag” and “grass” were written on the wall, the carpet was torn up, the shed was burned down, and the chickens had been killed.
She stated that the police instructed her to leave if the incident occurred again. As a result, she ended up with two young children at a homeless shelter after her windows were broken and she received intimidating messages.
The assessment examined the claims made by Sara Rowbotham, the leader of the emergency response team in Rochdale, and Oliver, a former detective constable in the Greater Manchester Police, in the BBC documentary “Betrayed Girls” regarding child sexual exploitation.
The review concluded that the accusations made by Oliver and Rowbotham were supported and that, during the time of the review, both GMP and Rochdale council did not make the protection of children being sexually exploited by numerous men in the Rochdale area a priority.
The leader of Rochdale council, Neil Emmott, expressed deep remorse for significant shortcomings and acknowledged that the individuals responsible are no longer involved.
As of now, a total of 42 males have been found guilty of engaging in the sexual exploitation of children in Rochdale, in multiple cases that occurred in the past. These trials took place between 2012 and 2023.