Child sex abuse report reveals catalogue of errors
PUBLISHED September 27, 2012
Vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, were systematically targeted for sexual abuse but then ignored when it was brought to the attention of multiple agencies which believed that they were "making their own choices".
The child sexual exploitation review was ordered in the aftermath of a trial in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, which saw nine Asian men aged between 22 and 69 jailed for grooming young white girls for sex.
The Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) concluded that "deficiencies" in the way children's social care responded to the victims' needs were caused by "patchy" training of front line staff.
Publication of the review follows newspaper reports alleging that agencies in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, were aware of a similar pattern of extensive and coordinated abuse of white girls by some Asian men for which no one has been prosecuted.
Rochdale Council said it has used the review's findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements.
The board looked at how agencies including the council, police, NHS and CPS worked between 2007 and 2012 to safeguard children and young people who were at risk of sexual exploitation.
Its report, which specifically followed the treatment of one 15-year-old victim, says: "While some organisations were consistently supportive in their response, overall child welfare organisations missed opportunities to provide a comprehensive, coordinated and timely response and, in addition, the criminal justice system missed opportunities to bring the perpetrators to justice."
It goes on: "Activity to disrupt alleged offenders was developing on the ground but this was not always followed through at a more senior level.
"The early investigations of crimes and the prosecution of alleged offenders were flawed."
Lynne Jones, the RBSCB chairwoman, said: "We have responded to this review and improvements have been implemented. I believe organisations are working better together, sharing information to ensure children are protected and that perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted."
She added: "Raising awareness so that young people are better equipped to understand what is happening to them or their friends has been delivered to 10,000 young people.
"Staff training has ensured that professionals are now more aware and able to respond appropriately.
"We are also seeing stronger joint working on police operations to bring people to justice."
The review found that in children's social care, the focus was on younger children at risk of abuse from family and household members, rather than on vulnerable adolescents;
Agencies which referred potential victims were said to be "frustrated" that they were not "being adequately assessed and dealt with by the local authority", and staff failed to escalate their concerns successfully.
Although the need for a specialist resource was identified in 2008, its development was deemed inadequately coordinated and supported.
The report concludes: "Although, between 2009 and February 2012, some improvements had been consolidated, the review acknowledges there were missed opportunities, over the last five years, to safeguard children and young people who have been affected by sexual exploitation."
The gang of nine men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years in May from a judge who said they treated their victims "as though they were worthless and beyond any respect".
The offences took place in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009, when five girls aged between 13 and 15 were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex.
Police said the victims were from "chaotic", "council estate" backgrounds and as many as 50 girls could have been victims of the gang.