Three women exploited by a notorious grooming gang in Rochdale have won a “historic victory” after the police apologized to them for a “catalogue of failings”.
Stephen Watson, Greater Manchester Police’s Chief Constable, met the women at the police force’s headquarters on Tuesday where he voiced regret for the way the police handled their cases.
The victims, who have now received financial compensation, were raped and subjected to sexual abuse by men in the large town in Greater Manchester.
In his apology, Mr Watson said: “It is a matter of profound personal regret that your childhood was so cruelly impacted by the dreadful experiences which you endured. Greater Manchester Police could, and should, have done much more to protect you and we let you down.”
The women, who cannot be named, launched a claim against Greater Manchester Police in 2019.
Daisy, a fake name given to one of the three victims, 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.
“It’s been 10 years since Operation Span and until now they’d never accepted what really happened. If we’d never found lawyers I don’t know if they ever would have apologized to us.”
Some members of the grooming gangs were convicted of child sex abuse back in 2012.
Former Detective Constable Maggie Oliver, who stepped down over the way Greater Manchester Police dealt with the girls’ cases, said: “I feel relieved that finally, after an all-consuming 10-year battle, Greater Manchester Police have at last acknowledged their horrific treatment of these three victims was wrong, even inhumane.
“Their powerful legal teams and the previous chief constables have blocked this action at every point, believing we would just give up and go away. But that was never going to happen.
“And whilst an apology can never put right the harm that has been done to these young girls, at least now they can begin to look ahead to the rest of their lives, knowing they were failed.”
The former police officer said she knows the three victims regret placing trust in police officers as she warned “the damage caused by the treatment they received has in many ways been as bad as, if not worse than, the sexual abuse itself, which is a damning indiscretion of our so-called ‘justice’ system.”
Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the Center for Women’s Justice, which represented the three women, said: “It is extraordinary what these three women have achieved after all they have been through. 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.”
The Center for Women’s Justice hailed the police apology as a “historic victory” as they warned the three victims were subjected to a “catalogue of failings” by the police.
While Harriet Wistrich, director of the Center for Women’s Justice, a legal charity that tackles violence against women, said: “The trial ten years ago was hailed as a victory, but it followed years of abject policing failures.
“Sadly, such failures are still prevalent across the country as highlighted in the recent publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse inquiry into child sexual exploitation by organized networks. We hope this historic victory will provide an additional spur to police forces around the country to implement effective measures to tackle this pernicious crime.”