Grooming gang victims get 'substantial' damages and police apology

Three Rochdale grooming gang victims finally receive ‘substantial’ damages from police and personal apology for failing to protect them by investigating crimes properly

  • The women were abused by a gang of men in Rochdale when they were children 
  • Greater Manchester Police apologised for failings in how it dealt with the girls
  • This includes failing to record crimes or adequately investigate the offenders
  • Now the girls have been given a payout after a legal claim against the force 

Three women who were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by gangs of men in Rochdale have been given a ‘substantial’ payout in damages and an apology from Manchester’s top cop over how they were treated. 

The victims met Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) today where he said sorry for police failings that took place when the women were children. 

Mr Watson apologised for the failure of the force to protect them and investigate the abusers, which happened under previous chief constables, including Sir Peter Fahy and his predecessor.

Mr Watson told the women: ‘It is a matter of profound personal regret that your childhood was so cruelly impacted by the dreadful experiences which you endured. GMP could and should have done much more to protect you and we let you down.’

Stephen Watson (pictured), Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, has apologised to the women for failings in how they were treated

One of the three women, Daisy, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said: ‘I don’t know if I believe that Greater Manchester Police have really changed their ways as they say they have, but I’m happy that they’ve taken into account their failings and there’s finally been some accountability.’

The women, backed by lawyers from the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) charity, brought a legal claim against GMP that said, according to legal documents, that from the early 2000s there was growing evidence from multiple allegations that gangs of predominantly Asian men were grooming, trafficking and sexually abusing predominantly white working-class girls in Rochdale.

Lawyers for the three – one who was 14 and two who were 12 at the time – successfully argued their human rights were breached by GMP failing to protect them by putting a stop to the abuse.

This included failing to record crimes, investigate offenders, collect intelligence, or charge and prosecute abusers.

Instead of child victims of sexual abuse, the three were viewed by police as ‘bad’ or ‘unreliable’ witnesses and were sometimes arrested themselves while reporting abuse, the women said.

Though the abuse was happening ‘in plain sight’, a police operation to tackle the gangs was closed down abruptly in 2004, despite police and social services having the names of the men involved and their victims.

Eight years later, following a second major police investigation, Operation Span, nine men were convicted for sexual exploitation of children in Rochdale.

The trial heard that girls as young as 12 were plied with alcohol and drugs and gang-raped in rooms above takeaway shops, and ferried to different flats in taxis where cash was paid to use them.

The women have received a ‘substantial’ payout from Greater Manchester Police and met Chief Constable Stephen Watson at force headquarters (pictured) today

Another of the three women, Amber, said: ‘I feel like this is the first time I’ve really been seen and publicly recognised by authorities as an innocent child victim who needed protection.’

Former detective constable Maggie Oliver resigned from GMP in 2012 to turn whistleblower over the force’s failings.

Ms Oliver, founder of the Maggie Oliver Foundation, a charity that supports and advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse, said: ‘I feel relieved that finally, after an all-consuming 10-year battle, GMP have at last acknowledged their horrific treatment of these three victims was wrong, even inhumane.’

Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the CWJ who acted for the three claimants, said: ‘We hope that today’s outcome will serve as a reminder to Greater Manchester Police, and other police forces, that they will be held to account if they fail to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and abuse.’

GMP settled the claim before the matter got to court.

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