UK & World News
Child Sex Gang: Police 'Let Down Victims'
A gang of Asian men who drugged, raped and trafficked underage girls for sex were able to carry out their abuses for two years because of a series of errors made by police, social services and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Nine men, all from north-west England, abused at least five young girls between August 2008 and 2010.
The nine were Kabeer Hassan, Abdul Aziz, Abdul Rauf, Mohammed Sajid, Adil Khan, Abdul Qayyum, Mohammed Amin, Hamid Safi and a 59-year-old man who cannot be named for legal reasons.
A jury at Liverpool Crown found them guilty of child sex charges, including rape and trafficking, in one of the biggest cases of its kind to reach a British court.But in the aftermath of the 11-week trial, major questions are being asked about the handling of the early investigation after it was revealed the police and CPS made a series of mistakes which had huge knock-on effects for the young girls involved.
In August 2008, one of the victims, who was 15 years old at the time and cannot be named, told police she was being abused by two Asian men, a 59-year-old, and a 25-year-old called Kabeer Hassan.
A six-hour recorded interview with police took place and DNA evidence pointed to one of the defendants.
But a full year later, in August 2009, a CPS lawyer judged there was a "low prospect of conviction" and decided not to charge the pair.
Greater Manchester Police, able to appeal the decision if it wished, decided to accept the judgement.
The two men knew the other defendants well and as one senior police source put it: "The men picked up where the other two left off."
Greater Manchester Police has told Sky News they let the victims in this case down for not doing enough in the 2008 inquiry, which it is now investigating, under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Sky News understands that Greater Manchester Police had submitted a draft report but that the IPCC was "not satisfied" with the findings and sent it back.
An IPCC spokesman said: "The IPCC received a report from Greater Manchester Police as part of the supervised investigation.
"As part of its supervisory role in the investigation, the IPCC has asked Greater Manchester Police to provide all supporting documentation for the report to assist with its consideration and conduct some additional investigative work."
Both the CPS and police have since admitted that they did not think a jury would believe the young girl's story and that she would not be a "credible" witness.
Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said the force had learned lessons from the past but still had much to learn about this type of case.
"We're sorry. We apologise. This was the wrong decision and subsequently it was overturned," he told Sky News.
"We didn't do as well as we could with that victim and we apologise for that.
"But we have learned lessons and they were serious lessons to learn."
All the victims were known to social services; some were in care at the time that the abuses took place.
Steve Garner, director of Children's Social Care at Rochdale Council, said the victims in their care were not monitored sufficiently.
"We have realised that we were simply not communicating with other agencies enough to keep track of what they were doing and who they were associating with," he said.
"But that has changed now and we all work together a lot better than we did back then."
The trial at Liverpool Crown Court heard in graphic detail of how the girls were targeted by the men who saw them as "vulnerable" and an "easy target".
Prosecuting, Rachel Smith QC, told the jury: "They were the sort of children who were easy to identify, target and exploit for the sexual gratification of these men.
"The events and circumstances described by the girls are at best saddening and at worst shocking in places."
One of the victims, looked after by social services at the time, was moved to the south of England by carers.
But two of the men kept in contact and deposited money into her account so that she could travel back to Rochdale to have sex with them.
She was "paid to keep quiet," she later told police.
Another victim posted a note under the door of a care home manager as a "cry for help".
That note, read to the jury, said: "Asians pick me up, they get me drunk, they give me drugs, they have sex with me and pay me not to tell anyone. I want to move".
It was only when the north west's new chief prosecutor, Nazir Afazal, looked at the case three years later that he decided to reverse the decision.
He believed the judgement was wrong and ordered a review of the case.
"We all failed these young girls," Mr Afazal told Sky News
"It was my immediate opinion, after reviewing this case, that there was sufficient evidence to warrant a prosecution.
"We very much regret the judgement that was made back in 2008."