UK & World News
Rochdale Sex Abuse 'Could Have Been Prevented'
A serious case review has criticised police and social services over their handling of child sex abuse cases in Rochdale.
It follows a high-profile court case last year which involved a sex trafficking gang who preyed on vulnerable young girls.
The victims had been plied with alcohol and drugs before being passed around a group of men who were largely of Pakistani origin.
The report, published on Friday morning, said it had found a "widespread pattern of weaknesses and failings" across several agencies over a nine-year period.
It said: "Six of the seven young people considered in the reviews were, for several years prior to being sexually exploited, in need of help."
The report commissioned by Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) added: "Given the highly organised, determined and manipulative behaviour of the perpetrators, it would be unrealistic to imagine that their behaviour could have been predicted and that all harm to all the young people they abused could have been prevented.
"However, had the sexual exploitation been recognised and responded to at the earliest stages, these young people may have been protected from repeat victimisation and other young people may also have been protected from becoming victims."
Report author Sian Griffiths, an independent social worker, said a high workload in children's safeguarding teams and the police "contributed to disorganisation and at times a sense of helplessness".
Ms Griffiths adds: "That the failings took place over a period of five years in relation to six young people who were in contact with at least 17 different agencies makes it absolutely clear that the problems were much more deep rooted than can be explained as failings at an individual level.
"It is also important to note that the experiences of these six young people whilst fundamentally important in their own right are accepted by agencies within Rochdale as being indicative of the experience of other young people at the time."
Greater Manchester Police's Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said he was not considering his position as a result of the report.
Sir Peter said the report had failed to confront a "fundamental" problem faced by police officers, who may investigate complaints from victims of sexual abuse only to find prosecutors will not take the case forward because of the unreliability of the key witness.
He warned of a "culture of hopelessness" among officers who are repeatedly asked to track down and return young people missing from children's homes, only for them to run away again.
Greater Manchester's Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd has set up an independent commission to look into the handling of cases involving teenagers with chaotic lifestyles and reconsider the structures currently in place to protect them, said Sir Peter.
"Most people would say it is crazy that there are 17 or 18 different agencies in a place like Rochdale in charge of children," he said. "That can't make sense."
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, said it was disappointing to see the report "sneaked out on the last Friday before Christmas" but said it had laid bare serious failings.
"It worries me that the report shows there is evidence of a focus on performance targets, which has meant that child sexual exploitation is not a police priority," he said.
"This crime has done a huge amount of damage to our town and the police have to give it more attention."
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