The independent assurance review into historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oldham, published on Mon 20 June 2022, has found there were serious failings in the handling of some cases, particularly of the victim, ‘Sophie’. The review team found that some children had been failed by the agencies that were meant to protect them because child protection procedures had not been properly followed.
Evidence of poor practice was attributed to a structural flaw the review team found in the multi-agency system that was set up to tackle to CSE leading to some children not being protected and perpetrators not being apprehended earlier.
However, the review team found no evidence either through interviews or documentary review to suggest senior managers or councillors sought to cover-up the existence of CSE or the complexity involved in tackling perpetrators and nor was there widespread CSE in residential settings, in shisha bars or in the local taxi trade.
The review was commissioned in November 2019 by Oldham Council who requested that the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Standards Board’s independent chair conduct a review into safeguarding practices in Oldham.
The independent review was undertaken by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway, who both worked on the assurance review of Operation Augusta, published in 2020.
Responding to the review, Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, pictured said: “Following the airing of the BBC documentary, The Betrayed Girls in 2017, about sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester, I announced shortly after that I wanted assurance to be provided to the public of Greater Manchester that everything possible has been done to protect children, prosecute offenders and prevent it from happening again. “The independent review team of Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway produced a thorough review into child sexual exploitation in Manchester and have done so again in Oldham. I give them my profound thanks for the painstaking way in which they have pursued this inquiry and for the quality of their report. “As Mayor, I have made it crystal clear to all public bodies in Greater Manchester that protecting our children will always be our highest priority and that institutional or political concerns will never deflect us from that. It is never too late to face up to past failings nor to say sorry to those who were let down.
“This report continues the process of shining a spotlight on past failures in Greater Manchester. Whilst difficult to read, it has identified a number of wrongs that need to be put right. There were serious failings and victims were let down, particularly Sophie. Whilst there was no evidence of a cover-up, we must not flinch from acknowledging shortcomings. I ask all public servants in Greater Manchester to read this report and its findings and consider what more we must do to strengthen our approach to child sexual exploitation. I will also fully support any actions to prosecute those responsible for these abhorrent crimes and hold to account those whose behaviour fell short of what we require.”
Support and advice for children and young people, parents and carers, and professionals about all aspects of child sexual exploitation is available from itsnotokay.co.uk, as well as information about how to report it.