Grooming inquiry finds catalogue of failings

A “significant part” of the sexual exploitation committed against young girls in Rochdale should have been predicted and prevented, a serious case review has found.

A mosque in Rochdale which stands alongside high rise flats in the town, as a review after nine Asian men were convicted of the systematic grooming and sexual abuse of white girls.

Five of six victims on whom the report focused were “clearly in need of early help and at times intervention” by safeguarding agencies for several years before they were abused.

But there was no properly co-ordinated package of support and assessment which recognised such risks as neglect, domestic violence, parental health problems and substance misuse.

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The report, commissioned by Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB), added: “Given the highly organised, determined and manipulative behaviour of the perpetrators, it would be unrealistic to imagine that their behaviour could have been predicted and that all harm to all the young people they abused could have been prevented.

“However, had the sexual exploitation been recognised and responded to at the earliest stages, these young people may have been protected from repeat victimisation and other young people may also have been protected from becoming victims.”

The publication of the review comes more than 18 months after nine Asian men were convicted of the systematic grooming and sexual abuse of white girls in Heywood and Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.

A chance to stop the gang was missed in 2008 and both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service were forced to apologise for their failings.

An interim report last year found vulnerable girls, some as young as 10, targeted for sexual abuse, were written off by those in authority who believed they were “making their own choices” and “engaging in consensual sexual activity”.

The latest report, by Sian Griffiths, an independent social worker, pointed to long-standing failings in leadership and direction at the most senior levels of key agencies; long-standing difficulties in achieving effective multi-agency working at the most senior levels; failure by managers to focus on routine safeguarding practice; and under-resourcing, resulting in high workloads.

The SCR was published as five men who sexually exploited of a 15-year-old girl in Rochdale in 2008 and 2009 were jailed for up to eight and a half years at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court.

Most of the defendants were only arrested last year after the grim portrayal of a largely 
Pakistani-heritage child sex ring preying on white girls in the town emerged in a separate trial at Liverpool Crown Court which attracted huge publicity.

But one of the offenders, Congolese refugee Freddie Kendakumana, was first arrested and interviewed by Greater Manchester Police in December 2008 after the girl – also white – complained to police he had raped her the month before.

Passing sentence, Judge Jonathan Foster QC said it was “regrettable” her allegations were not fully pursued until 2011.