A damning report has found that dozens of children who were suspected of having been groomed and abused by gangs of Asian men operating in "plain sight" were failed by both the police and local authorities.
According to the 145 page report into child sexual exploitation in Manchester some of the victims were subjected to "profound abuse" and told carers and police officers about the sexual assaults as well as giving names and addresses, but no action was taken and concluded: "The authorities knew that many were being subjected to the most profound abuse and exploitation but did not protect them from the perpetrators.”
The report’s authors Malcolm Newsam, a renowned child care expert, and Gary Ridgeway, a former detective superintendent with Cambridgeshire Police commented: "This is a depressingly familiar picture and has been seen in many other towns and cities across the country.”
Central to the report was the work of Operation Augusta, set up in 2004, prompted by the death of Victoria, 15, a girl under the care of Manchester City Council, who reported being raped and injected with heroin by a 50-year-old Asian man before passing away two months later on September 29, 2003, due to an overdose.
Head of Specialist Crime for Greater Manchester Police, Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain, released a statement after the report came out in which he said: “We accept that authorities fell short of doing all they could to protect and support the child victims of sexual exploitation identified under Operation Augusta in 2004.
“Children should be able to expect those responsible for their care will do all they can to keep them safe and I want to apologise to all those vulnerable children who were let down. I can only imagine the pain and distress they must have gone through, which would have only been made worse by these failings. I am sorry they were let down and I am sorry they were not protected from harm.
“Many of the children were subject to the most profound abuse and, although the review team acknowledged there was much in Operation Augusta and the work carried out by the investigation team to be commended, we agree the overall operation was not to the standard rightfully expected from victims.
"We have made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct so that they can carry out an independent assessment to determine if there are any conduct matters that should be investigated.
“We and our partners at Manchester City Council have personally contacted all but one victim featured in the report to offer them any support we can ahead of it being published. Each contact was carefully planned with care professionals to ensure we were as sensitive as possible and further specialist support was offered.
“Of course back in early 2000s, the priorities for forces across the UK were very different. This has completely changed and today safeguarding the vulnerable is our absolute priority.
“After taking learnings from the Operation Span investigation in Rochdale and the significant convictions secured in 2013, we have worked closely with partners across Greater Manchester to develop a consistent standard in addressing the exploitation of young people.
"This approach puts the victim at the centre of everything we do, which ensures that proper support is provided by the right agencies and any safeguarding concerns are addressed. With this support from partners, it provides a stronger footing for police to prevent, disrupt and investigate these crimes.
"The work of these specialised teams under Project Phoenix has been recognised nationally as showing excellent working practice in tackling child sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester.
“We have continued to learn and develop these principles with partners over the last six years. As a result we have made further improvements to our whole approach to tackling the abuse and exploitation of young people. These improvements include the introduction of specialist co-located multi-agency ‘Complex Safeguarding Teams’ in every district across Greater Manchester. These focus on all aspects of exploitation including CSE, criminal exploitation and modern slavery.
“A Major Incident Team has been established under Operation Green Jacket. This dedicated multi-agency team has already carried out a significant amount of disruption actions, as well as numerous safeguarding visits. We will continue to do all that we can to safeguard children within our communities. Greater Manchester Police will investigate any report of child exploitation that is made.”