VICTIMS of a child sex ring may take legal action against the authorities for failing to protect them after a damning report laid bare the extent of their failings.
Social workers, police and prosecutors “missed opportunities” to stop the child exploitation ring abusing young girls, a report into the scandal revealed yesterday.
“Deficiencies” in the way children’s social care responded to the victims’ needs in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were caused by “patchy” training of frontline staff, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its 29-page report into child sexual exploitation.
And child social care services were geared towards younger children at risk of abuse from family and household members rather than vulnerable adolescents.
The review comes four months after nine Asian men were convicted of the systematic grooming and sexual abuse of white girls in Heywood and Rochdale in a case reignited a national debate over the role of gangs of largely Asian men in grooming white girls and led to apologies from police and the Crown Prosecution Service for not having acted sooner.
The picture which emerges from the report is one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, being written off by those in authority who believed they were “making their own choices”. In reality, girls were being raped and often violently beaten.
Richard Scorer, a solicitor for some of the victims, said it was “very likely” they would be taking legal action against the authorities for failing to protect them.
Mr Scorer told ITV’s Daybreak programme: “I think based on the evidence in this report it is very likely we will be going forward with legal action. It is fairly unusual for social services to be sued. It does happen but it is fairly unusual.”
Rochdale Council said yesterday it had used the review’s findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements, including briefings to more than 10,000 staff in agencies in the borough in respect of recognition and response to sexual exploitation, and face-to-face training for 1,500 staff with plans to reach the whole workforce by the end of this year.
The gang of nine men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years in May in relation to offences which happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009 and involved five girls – aged between 13 and 15 – who were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex but were also beaten.
Police said the victims were from “chaotic”, “council estate” backgrounds and as many as 50 girls could have been fallen prey to the gang.
A chance to stop the offenders was missed in 2008, when the first victim, who was 15 when the abuse began, told police what had been happening to her in August, and specifically spoke of her abuse at the hands of two members of the gang. Her complaint was not taken seriously, however, and she carried on being abused until December of that year when she moved away.
Jim Taylor, chief executive of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This review highlights that all agencies did not work together adequately and it is very clear that, in the past, council services missed opportunities to offer assistance. I deeply regret this.”
A report by the IPCC into police handling of the case is yet to be published and a full Serious Case Review is due for publication next year.