Rochdale grooming gang victims receive ‘substantial’ damages as police apologise



Three victims of grooming gangs in Rochdale have received “substantial” damages and a personal apology from the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police.

The women met top officer Stephen Watson this afternoon to be given the apology in person for police failings when, as children, they were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by gangs of men in Rochdale.

Mr Watson apologized for the failure of his force to protect them and investigate the abusers, which happened under previous chief constables, including Sir Peter Fahy and his predecessor Michael Todd.

Mr Watson 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.”







Qari Abdul Rauf
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Shabir Ahmed, leader of the Rochdale grooming gang
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One of the three women, Daisy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said: “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.”

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 – one who was 14 and two who were 12 at the time of the abuse – 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.







Taxi driver Abdul Aziz
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GMP Chief Constable Stephen Watson
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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 whistleblower 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.

One of the three women who has received damages was depicted as the character Ruby in Three Girls, the award-winning BBC dramatization of the grooming scandal.

In legal documents detailing her claims against police for failing to protect her, Ruby 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.







Former Manchester Police Detective Maggie Oliver
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Forced into prostitution, on one occasion, she was recorded while naked and the video circulated.

She was made pregnant 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 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.

On occasion she would be “swapped” with other victims of the abuse to have sex with different men and threatened with a gun and a knife on separate occasions when she refused to comply.

Daisy was also only 12 when the abuse began, continuing 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. She was 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 coat, thrown orange juice over her, and left her to walk home with no socks or shoes on.

Police drove her home and told her they could not do anything because they did not have the man’s name.







Three Girls is the award-winning BBC dramatization of the grooming scandal
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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 she was treated as a perpetrator not a victim and as far as she is aware no action was ever taken by GMP to record, investigate it, or take steps towards the prosecution of her abusers.

Attempts by the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team co-ordinator for the NHS, Sara Rowbotham, to alert police and authorities to “patterns of sexual abuse” were ignored. Between 2003 and 2014, Rowbotham made more than 180 attempts to alert police and social services but she was told the witnesses were not reliable.

Nine men were convicted in 2012, of whom eight were of British Pakistani origin and one was an Afghan asylum-seeker. The offenses included sex trafficking, rape, and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with a child. They received sentences of up to 25 years.

Most of the men were married and well-respected within their community. One gang member convicted of sex trafficking was a religious studies teacher at a mosque and a married father of five. The men were aged between 24-59 and all knew each other. Two worked for the same taxi firm and another two worked at a takeaway restaurant; some came from the same village in Pakistan and another two men shared a flat.

Nine of the defendants had pleaded not guilty before a 15 week trial at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester. A 10th man had pleaded guilty earlier.

Shabir Ahmed received the longest sentence, 19 years for rape, aiding and betting a rape, sexual assault, trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

Mohammed Sajid was sentenced to 12 years for rape, sexual activity with a girl under 16, trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

Kabeer Hassan was sentenced to nine years for rape and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children. Abdul Aziz received a similar sentence: nine years (concurrently) for trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

Abdul Rauf was sentenced to six years for trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

Adil Khan was sentenced to eight years for the same offences. Mohammed Amin received a five-year sentence for sexual assault and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

Another five-year sentence was given to Abdul Qayyum for conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children, while Hamid Safi received four years for trafficking for sexual exploitation and conspiracy to engage in sexual activity with children.

One man left the country during the trial and is believed to have returned to Pakistan.

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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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