Rochdale grooming gang victims failed by GMP receive apology and ‘substantial’ payout

Three women who were sexually abused by Rochdale grooming gangs have received a “substantial” payout from GMP after the Chief Constable admitted and apologized for “failures” made by the force.

Stephen Watson met the victims at GMP’s headquarters in north Manchester on Tuesday afternoon (April 12) where he gave an in-person apology for the police failings in their cases, PA new agency reports. The top officer acknowledged the force’s failure to protect the women, who were children when they were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by gangs of men in Rochdale.

Mr Watson also apologized for his predecessors’ errors in not investigating the abusers, a culture which happened under the previous Chief Constables, including Sir Peter Fahy.

READ MORE: Outrage over why Rochdale grooming gang members haven’t been deported

He told the women: “It is a matter of profound personal regret that your childhood was so cruelly impacted by the dreadful experiences which you endured. GMP could and should have done much more to protect you and we let you down.”

One of the three women was depicted as the character Ruby in the award-winning BBC dramatization of the Rochdale grooming scandal – Three Girls.

Characters Ruby, Holly and Amber in the BBC series Three Girls

In legal documents, Ruby, who is identified as BXW, states the abuse began aged 12 and continued for four years where she was passed “like a ball” between “thousands” of men for rape and sexual abuse.

She was impregnated by one man, Adil Khan, when she was aged 13 and had an abortion. Police seized the fetus as evidence, but she was not notified – and nor was her mother de ella or any responsible adult.

The second woman, Amber, also depicted in the BBC drama in 2017, was aged 14 when the abuse began, according to her legal claim. She was first raped while intoxicated and thereafter raped and sexually assaulted by numerous men on numerous occasions, giving police the names or nicknames of 45 males who abused her or other children.

The third woman, Daisy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was only 12 when the abuse began. It continued for the next five years. She was punched in the face and called a “white slag” by one of her abusers outside a pizza shop in Rochdale in 2006. But she was the one arrested for harassment.

On one occasion, she was picked up by GMP officers on the Moors miles outside Manchester. She had told a man she did not want to sleep with him, and he had taken her de ella coat, thrown orange juice over her, and left her to walk home with no socks or shoes on de ella.

Police drove her home and told her they could not do anything because they did not have the man’s name. Later police were called after she had been burned repeatedly with a heated spoon when she refused to comply with the demands of a group of adult men.

When interviewed by the police, she was accused of inflicting the wounds on herself and arrested for disorderly behaviour. Her claim against GMP stated that she was treated as a perpetrator not a victim.

Members of the Rochdale grooming gang: (Top row left to right) Abdul Rauf, Hamid Safi, Mohammed Sajid and Abdul Aziz; (Bottom row left to right) Abdul Qayyum, Adil Khan, Mohammed Amin and Kabeer Hassan Adil Khan, Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz

“I don’t know if I believe that Greater Manchester Police have really changed their ways as they say they have, but I’m happy that they’ve taken into account their failings and there’s finally been some accountability,” she said after being awarded damages.

The women, backed by lawyers from the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) charity, brought a legal claim against GMP that said, according to legal documents, that from the early 2000s there was growing evidence from multiple allegations that gangs of predominantly Asian men were grooming, trafficking and sexually abusing predominantly white working-class girls in Rochdale.

Lawyers for the three successfully argued their human rights were breached by GMP failing to protect them by putting a stop to the abuse. This included failing to record crimes, investigate offenders, collect intelligence, or charge and prosecute abusers.

Instead of child victims of sexual abuse, the three were viewed by police as “bad” or “unreliable” witnesses and were sometimes arrested themselves while reporting abuse, the women said.

Though the abuse was happening “in plain sight”, a police operation to tackle the gangs was closed down abruptly in 2004, despite police and social services having the names of the men involved and their victims.

Eight years later, following a second major police investigation, Operation Span, nine men were convicted for sexual exploitation of children in Rochdale.

Former GMP detective turned whistle-blower Maggie Oliver

The trial heard that girls as young as 12 were plied with alcohol and drugs and gang-raped in rooms above takeaway shops, and ferried to different flats in taxis where cash was paid to use them.

Another of the three women, Amber, said: “I feel like this is the first time I’ve really been seen and publicly recognized by authorities as an innocent child victim who needed protection.”

Former detective constable Maggie Oliver resigned from GMP in 2012 to turn whistle-blower over the force’s failings.

Ms Oliver, founder of the Maggie Oliver Foundation, a charity that supports and advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse, said: “I feel relieved that finally, after an all-consuming 10-year battle, GMP have at last acknowledged their horrific treatment of these three victims was wrong, even inhumane.”

Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the CWJ who acted for the three claimants, said: “We hope that today’s outcome will serve as a reminder to Greater Manchester Police, and other police forces, that they will be held to account if they fail to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and abuse.”

GMP settled the claim before the matter got to court.

Full GMP statement

Chief Constable Stephen Watson said: “Today is not about Greater Manchester Police, but about those victims who in the past have been let down when they needed our help in the most traumatic and horrific circumstances. I have now personally delivered my apology to some of these victims for the failings Greater Manchester Police had in their contact with those who suffered child sexual exploitation in Rochdale.

“It is a matter of profound personal regret that the childhoods of these victims were so cruelly impacted by the dreadful experiences they endured. GMP could, and should, have done much more to protect them.

“The failings of our past into Child Sexual Exploitation are well known, and thankfully there is today a far better understanding of CSE than there was before the Operation Span trial in May 2012, and we are committed to leaving no stone unturned to bring these offenders to justice, no matter the passage of time, through our dedicated Force CSE unit.

“We will strive to keep improving our responses to similarly horrible circumstances, to prevent the same from happening in the first instance and relentlessly pursuing perpetrators so that they can be held fully to account. I hope that my apology and commitment to rectifying the poor practices of the past will provide some little comfort to those we failed.

“We have also agreed with the recipients to publish my apologies in full on our website, links to which can be found below.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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