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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Rochdale abuse scandal: Potential offenders still at large, says ex-detective

Written by The Press Association

A former police detective who played a key role in bringing child sex abusers in Rochdale to justice has said a number of potential offenders are still at large.

Detective Constable Maggie Oliver (pictured) persuaded young girls who were being sexually abused in the town to speak to police leading to nine gang members being jailed in 2012.

Speaking to the Mirror, the former officer said girls would still be susceptible to abuse in Rochdale as offenders are still walking the streets.

The scandal has been adapted into TV drama Three Girls, with Ms Oliver saying she hoped the programme would encourage anyone who has been abused to tell their story to police.

She told the paper: "Abuse will still be happening because offenders are still walking the streets.

"Many of them were not even recorded on crime reports even though children named them."

One woman who had complained to police about an offender found herself standing in a queue next to him, the former Greater Manchester Police officer said.

She added: "In my opinion a child abuser is always a child abuser. That man is still out there walking the streets of Rochdale.

"There were nine men convicted. But the girls told me of many more men."

Greater Manchester Police said they have made "huge progress" in tackling child sexual exploitation and there has been a "significant" increase in the number of child sexual exploitation cases being reported due to increasing public awareness and police officer understanding.

Nine men were convicted in the first tranche of prosecutions in 2012, with ringleader Shabir Ahmed, then 59, jailed for 19 years for a string of offences including rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The case at Liverpool Crown Court heard five girls - aged between 13 and 15 - were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex but there were times when violence was used.

Police said at the time the victims were from "chaotic", "council estate" backgrounds and as many as 50 girls could have been victims of the gang.

The men all received jail sentences from a judge who said they treated their victims "as though they were worthless and beyond any respect".

Following the trial the police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the local council in Rochdale came in for heavy criticism when details emerged of how the inquiry had been botched.

A chance to stop the gang was missed in 2008 and both the police and the CPS were forced to apologise for their failings while Rochdale Council said it "deeply regretted" the missed opportunities.

The first victim, who was 15 when the abuse began, told the police what had been happening in August 2008, but her complaint was not taken seriously and she continued to be abused by the gang until December 2008 when she fell pregnant and moved away.

In July 2009 a CPS lawyer then compounded the police failure to take her seriously and made the decision not to charge the two gang members she was accusing because he did not think a jury would find her "credible".

After the trial, she said she was "let down" by police and the CPS because the issue of Asian gangs grooming young white girls was "unheard of" at the time.

A further police operation into abuse in Rochdale - called Operation Doublet - was set up in the wake of the separate mass grooming trial at Liverpool which put the spotlight on the town.

One complainant walked into a police station shortly after widespread media coverage of the 2012 convictions.

She told officers that from the age of 14 she too had been repeatedly sexually groomed by a large number of men in Rochdale.

Ten men were given sentences of between five-and-a-half and 25 years at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court last year for the abuse of eight victims.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.