Vulnerable children were left exposed to sexual exploitation in Oldham because of “serious failings” by the police and council, a damning independent review has found.
The report found there were multiple missed opportunities to prevent abuse stretching back to 2005, including offenses committed by a council welfare officer who was later convicted of 30 rapes.
The review also suggested senior police and council officers may have misled MPs on the Commons home affairs select committee when denying wrongdoing over the “profound sexual exploitation” of a 12-year-old girl in 2005.
It criticized Greater Manchester police’s “less than candid” approach to MPs in 2019 and said both agencies ’response to the victim’s concerns in recent years“ feed a view ”that they were“ more concerned about covering up their failures than acknowledging the harm that had has been done to a vulnerable young person ”.
The review, commissioned by Oldham council in 2019, is the latest to examine child sexual exploitation in English towns following similarly damning reports on Rotherham, Oxford, Telford and Rochdale.
The authors, the child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam and the former senior police officer Gary Ridgway, found there was no evidence to suggest Oldham council sought to cover up child sexual exploitation or shy away from the issue of abuse of vulnerable white girls predominantly by men of Pakistani heritage.
However, it concluded there were “historic failings” and that “some children had been failed by the agencies that were meant to protect them because child protection procedures had not been properly followed”.
Bev Hughes, Greater Manchester’s deputy major for policing, said the report “shone a light on terrible abuse suffered by children who should have been helped and protected”.
She said: “I know apologies won’t erase the suffering victims have endured but it is right that Oldham council and GMP have acknowledged what went wrong and apologized for it.”
Stephen Watson, the chief constable of Greater Manchester police (GMP), said the force’s actions “fell far short” of the help victims deserved and offered his apologies to those affected. He added: “I offer no excuses but can give assurances that our approach to tackling child exploitation has vastly improved and is now a policing priority.”
Amanda Chadderton, the leader of the Oldham council, said the report highlighted “clear failings” that the authority fully accepted.