Rochdale child abuse gangs report slams DEPLORABLE failures by police and warns more still at risk

Rochdale child abuse gangs report slams DEPLORABLE failures by police and warns more still at risk

WATCH: Andy Burnham reacts to the Rochdale Review

Charlie Peters

By Charlie Peters

Published: 15/01/2024

- 08:42

Updated: 15/01/2024

- 11:05

The report found dozens of men still pose potential risk to children in Rochdale

  • Police whistleblower Maggie Oliver ‘angry’ after nobody held accountable for grave failures in dealing with CSE gangs
  • GMP patrols 'were frightened of being tarnished with a race brush' during disruption activities, says senior officer

A report into non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rochdale has slammed "widespread" and “deplorable” failures in tackling abuse gangs by the police and council workers from 2004 to 2013.

The damning 173-page review sets out multiple failed investigations by Greater Manchester Police and apparent local authority indifference to the plight of hundreds of youngsters, mainly white girls from poor backgrounds, all identified as potential victims of abuse in Rochdale by Asian men.

Malcolm Newsam CBE, co-author of the report, said: “Successive police operations were launched over this period, but these were insufficiently resourced to match the scale of the widespread organised exploitation within the area.

“Consequently, children were left at risk and many of their abusers to this day have not been apprehended.”

Rochdale town centre and Andy BurnhamManchester Mayor Andy Burnham launched the review after the allegations shocked the nationDAVID DIXON/ PA

The report identifies 96 men still deemed a potential risk to children, but this is “only a proportion” of the numbers involved in the abuse.

The review was launched by Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2017 after allegations made by Maggie Oliver, a police whistleblower, and Sara Rowbotham, a council worker, in a BBC documentary titled The Betrayed Girls.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham commissioned the authors to look at the issues highlighted by the women in the documentary.

The Rochdale report follows reports by the same authors on grooming in Manchester and Oldham, which found authorities had again failed children leaving them in the clutches of paedophile gangs.

Oliver and Rowbotham raised serious concerns that details of sexual exploitation reported by girls in Rochdale were not being followed-up by the relevant organisations, in particular Greater Manchester Police and Rochdale Council.

They alleged that “dozens” of cases of horrific abuses were reported but ignored, with several men accused of rape but not arrested or questioned by the police.

Oliver and Rowbotham both said that mistakes were not learned from and widespread abuse continued without police intervention.

The report primarily covers a police operation called “Span”, which was eventually launched by GMP after original failures in investigating reports of sexual abuse made in 2008 and 2009 centering around two restaurants in Rochdale.

\u200bMaggie Oliver

Maggie Oliver said she was 'eternally grateful' for the failures of Greater Manchester Police being officially exposed


The police were found to have failed to sufficiently engage with the first allegations made by Child 41, a victim who has their anonymity protected, which led to the Crown Prosecution Service describing them as an “unreliable victim”.

Despite four interviews and extensive testimony of abuse, the victim was deemed “not credible” and the CPS decided that the two men who raped her should be released.

Operation Span was then launched in December 2010, with Maggie Oliver tasked as a detective constable to engage with victims.

The CPS and GMP eventually apologised for their many failures in the initial investigation after nine men were finally convicted in 2012.

The gang’s ringleader, Shabir Ahmed, was convicted of 30 rapes.

At the time of the convictions, Span was described by GMP as “comprehensive and effective, mitigating threat risk and harm.”

But in a shocking new discovery, the review team has uncovered that another child also gave evidence that she had been sexually exploited at the same location as Child 41.

The report said: “She had also provided a statement setting out how she had been a witness to the exploitation of other children by the same men who had raped Child 41.


The review into the multi-agency response to child sexual exploitation in Rochdale was launched by Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2017


GMP have since launched further investigations, which have so far resulted in the conviction of 42 men involved in the abuse of 13 children.

The report concludes the scale of abuse in Rochdale was known about by senior and middle managers in the police and children’s social care, but the problem was not given “sufficient priority”.

“We regard this as a lamentable strategic failure by senior leaders in GMP and Rochdale Council,” the report continues. It said the failure to prioritise, detect, disrupt or prosecute “should firmly be laid at the door of the senior officers in GMP throughout this period.”

Sir Peter Fahy was the chief constable of GMP between 2008 and 2015. He was knighted in the 2012 Birthday Honours ‘for services to policing’ and made an honorary professor of criminal justice at the University of Manchester on his retirement.

Maggie Oliver has since founded The Maggie Oliver Foundation, a charity supporting adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Andy Burnham

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the report was 'hard to read'


“The detective responsible for investigating her crime failed to focus on her disclosure and as a result insufficient effort was put into identifying the man who raped her.”

The review team concluded that “had this investigation been sufficiently resourced, and her complaints pursued with the rigour required, it may have strengthened the evidence to proceed with the prosecution,” referring to the CPS decision to drop the case.

The report also found that Operation Span neglected several potential avenues of investigation and disruption of the abuse gangs, such as covert tactics and racially motivated crime.

In its summary of the multitude of failures of Operation Span, the report concluded that GMP put “insufficient resources” into the investigation and closed it down prematurely.

It found that several perpetrators were free to continue abuse, putting many more children at risk of exploitation.

Operation Span was heralded as a success after the convictions in 2012, but the report found that GMP leaders failed to acknowledge that the operation barely “scratched the surface” of the true extent of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale.

And while the “public face of GMP” reassured the public it was a police priority to pursue further child groomers this was “far from the case on the ground” the report said.

Survivors were reportedly given just three opportunities to make a formal statement to the investigation. If a statement was not signed after three approaches, “they were required to sign a disclaimer to that effect,” a grave breach of victim-focused approaches to investigating abuse.

Child victims throughout the timeline of Rochdale investigations were sometimes made to feel responsible for their abuse. In one case, a child was raped by a gang of “Asian” men in a park aged 13 and later kept in a house for further abuse by an “Asian man”.

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