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Here is today’s Mancunian Way:
by BETH ABBIT – Mon June 20, 2022
It’s yet another example of authorities letting vulnerable children down when they needed them most.
A damning review into allegations of historic child sexual exploitation in Oldham covers the years 2011 and 2014 and a specific case dating back to 2005. It has found that:
- Rochdale grooming gang leader Shabir ‘Daddy’ Ahmed worked as a welfare officer in Oldham for a year despite being accused of serious child sexual abuse
- Girls being violently raped were described as ‘putting themselves at risk’ by social workers
- Convicted sex offenders and those accused of serious sexual offences involving women and children were given taxi driver licences
- Shisha bars were known to be a threat, but vulnerable children as young as 13 still visited them for years
Authors of the independent review found serious failings in the handling of some cases in the borough – particularly that of a young woman known as ‘Sophie’, as local democracy reporter Charlotte Green writes.
Sophie was 12 when she reported a sexual assault to staff at Oldham police station in 2006, but she was turned away. Later that night she was raped multiple times by different men.
This is not the first time Greater Manchester authorities have been criticised for their handling of child sexual abuse. The Rochdale grooming scandal shocked the nation. And just a few years later, it was revealed that authorities had failed to protect children who suffered ‘the most profound abuse’ in Manchester. This included Victoria Agoglia, 15, who was abused while in the care of Manchester Council and died after being injected with a lethal dose of heroin.
The latest report highlighting Sophie’s case shows she was not just ignored as a child. She spent years trying to highlight her abuse.
GMP were told the names of two of her attackers but failed to charge either of them with a crime. One was arrested, remanded and bailed – later failing to attend an immigration appointment. He is still at large. The other was jailed for the attempted murder of his wife, who told police he had admitted to raping a 12-year-old – information that was passed on but never acted upon.
Sophie wasn’t the only one to raise the alarm.
Residents of the Oldham street where she was taken to be raped had previously warned the council about a ‘large-scale’ grooming operation in which taxis would amass on the street every Wednesday night and children would be taken to an address ‘in a conveyer belt fashion’.
Today’s report finds no evidence of a cover-up of sexual exploitation in Oldham. In fact the authors say council leaders were ‘ahead of many local areas’ in tackling CSE at that time. But strategies to help vulnerable young people frequently failed them.
We do not yet know what has, or will, happen to figures such as the officer who took Sophie’s initial report of sexual assault and told her to come back with an adult when she was not drunk. Or to the social workers who trotted out phrases such as ‘putting herself at risk’ during meetings about individual children – despite evidence that they were being drugged or ‘made senseless on vodka’ and then subjected to violent rapes, often by several men in succession.
Oldham Council and GMP have apologised. And Chief Constable Stephen Watson says ‘misconduct’ will be dealt with. He is due to meet ‘Sophie’ to apologise in person. He says he offers ‘no excuses’, but gives assurances that GMP’s approach to tackling child exploitation has ‘vastly improved and is now a policing priority’.
The force has also launched Operation Sherwood – aimed at tackling CSE in Oldham, and has charged 13 suspects with 187 offences. “Any perpetrator regardless of the passage of time will be pursued relentlessly,” Mr Watson said at a press conference this morning.
All this is progress of course. But it will perhaps mean very little to the women still living with scars of horrific sexual abuse, years later.
Richard Scorer – who has represented sexual abuse victims including those of the Rochdale grooming gang – says the Oldham review ‘finds another massive gulf between headline strategy to tackle child sexual exploitation and the reality on the ground’. He says victim blaming must stop and a ‘complete reset’ is needed on CSE.
“Yet again we see police and local authorities proclaiming that they are tackling CSE but on the ground children are being let down over and over again. This scandal of rhetoric concealing reality was also evident in cases looked at by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. This is clearly happening right across the UK,” he said.
Deputy mayor Bev Hughes, who chairs the Child Sexual Exploitation steering group, says social workers and police officers ‘compounded’ abuse by not believing victims, seeing them as ‘troublemakers’ rather than abused children. She says the response was ‘quite appalling’. “Some people say this was a different time, standards were different. But actually that can never be an excuse for not protecting children who are in front of you clearly as victims.”
Mayor Andy Burnham – who commissioned the review along with Oldham Council in 2019 – insists: “It is never too late to face up to past failings, nor to say sorry to those who were let down.”
The shocking details revealed today must act as yet another wake up call to police, local authorities and anyone else who has responsibility for children.
READ MORE:Sophie was just 12 when she was repeatedly raped hours after police ignored her pleas for help
- Tuesday: Sunny
- Pollen count: Very high.
- Roads closed: Delph New Road, Dobcross, in both directions for roadworks between Wall Hill Road and Oldham Road until August 15. Eccles New Road westbound closed for gas main work from Stott Lane to Gilda Brook Road until June 28.
- Disruption expected to most train operating companies between June 21 and 26 due to industrial action.
- Today’s Manc trivia question: Manchester Piccadilly is the fourth busiest railway station in Britain, outside of London. Which cities have busier stations?
Answer at the bottom of the newsletter
Manchester hugs itself
The streets were swathed in colour during Manchester Day. Thousands of people watched the parade – which was led by a giant Queen Bee riding high in a Gondola and included dancers, musicians and an enormous Manchester Town Hall clock.
But it was Little Amal, the 3.4 metre high puppet of a Syrian girl refugee, who stole the show. After her journey across Europe from Syria, Little Amal joined the parade to make her way through Manchester’s city streets.
“We never dreamt during all the lows of lockdown that we would come roaring back with 20,000 people in town for Manchester Day, once again celebrating our amazing city and enjoying our iconic Manchester Day Parade. Manchester hugged itself today – and it was sensational,” Coun Pat Karney said.
“No other European city would start by building rail infrastructure on concrete stilts. It’s an outdated notion of urban planning, more reminiscent of the 1970s than what we want to see in 2040.”
That’s the warning from Manchester Council leader Bev Craig, who – along with other Northern leaders and rail experts – is urging ministers to rethink their plans for HS2.
The Manchester Evening News is today demanding that the government doesn’t botch one of the most important transport projects ever to be built in the north of England.
As transport reporter Charlotte Cox writes : “This is ministers’ one shot to build an underground station at Piccadilly which will future-proof passengers’ desperate need for capacity, reliability and resilience on the rail network. If they don’t make this choice then our city centre faces being scarred by a concrete jungle of viaducts and ugly structures on valuable land.”
The HS2 Crewe-Manchester Bill is today prepared for a second reading in parliament.
Disgruntled: Manchester United CEO Richard Arnold admitted he is ‘not thrilled’ with Manchester United’s performance despite spending ‘a billion pounds on players’ during a meeting with disgruntled fans. Supporters had been planning a protest outside his home. But Arnold met them at a Cheshire pub to address concerns about the future of the club.
Resignation: A police sergeant has resigned after an investigation found he had shared vile pornographic videos as well as discriminatory jokes on WhatsApp. Glyn Martin left Greater Manchester Police weeks before a disciplinary hearing found him guilty of gross misconduct. The Rochdale-based officer, who has received counselling for a self-confessed addiction to online porn, shared a series of vile clips, some showing sexual violence and bestiality and two offensive pictures featuring disabled people. He also received – but did not forward – anti-Semitic and Islamophobic content as well as an image glorifying a white supremacist. Martin also confessed to ‘sexting’ and being engaged in ‘multiple concurrent chats’ online. “I am deeply ashamed of my actions,” he said. John Scheerhout reports.
Adelphi Lads Club: The Salford club is to be turned into a summer bar and music venue, despite concerns from some neighbours and councillors. The club house, on Cannon Street, has been closed since 2008 and a fire which ripped through the building in 2010, destroyed much of its photos and artefacts. The summer bar could be its last hurrah before it’s bulldozed to make way for flats.
Incase you’ve forgotten what it looks like (renovations have been ongoing since 2018) here’s a lovely image of Manchester town hall in the summer of 2002.
Worth a read
When Louise Powell, who didn’t know she was pregnant, started giving birth at HMP Styal in June 2020, a prison nurse incorrectly concluded that she was suffering severe period pain. Louise, 30, delivered the baby in the toilet but she was stillborn on June 18 of that year.
Campaigners calling for an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women were protesting outside the prison gates yesterday. John Scheerhout has been talking to the ‘No Births Behind Bars’ group, who say what happened to Louise and her baby, Brooke, is unforgivable.
That’s all for today
Thanks for joining me, the next edition of the Mancunian Way will be with you around the same time tomorrow. If you have any stories you would like us to feature or look into, please contact me at email@example.com
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The answer to today’s trivia question, which cities have railways stations busier than Manchester Piccadilly, is Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.