- Final stage of review will monitor improvements made in all Greater Manchester Councils and GMP, assess the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation across the whole of Greater Manchester
- GMP Chief Constable updates Greater Manchester Leaders on progress in CSE investigations
The final stage of a comprehensive independent review, commissioned by Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to provide assurance that Greater Manchester councils and police have the right culture and best possible systems in place to protect children from sexual exploitation (CSE), has been unanimously endorsed.
After the endorsement of the Mayor and leaders at a Greater Manchester Combined Authority meeting today (Friday 30 June), the independent review team will now progress the fourth and final part of the Independent CSE Assurance Review. The review team will work with all ten local authorities in the city-region, as well as Greater Manchester Police, to assess the progress that has been made to date in terms of Greater Manchester multi-agency responses to CSE and identify priority areas for further improvement.
Following the airing of the BBC documentary, The Betrayed Girls, about child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester on 3 July 2017, the Mayor announced he wanted to assure himself and the public that everything possible has been done to protect children today and in the future and prevent it from happening again.
Since then, independent reviews into Manchester (Part One) and Oldham (Part Two) have been completed, with Rochdale (Part Three) due to report by the end of 2023.
It will again be led by nationally-recognised independent experts, Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway with an expectation that it will be completed by the end of the year.
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This is an important day for the people of Greater Manchester and in particular those who have been impacted by these abhorrent and despicable crimes.
“This is an issue at the absolute top of my priority list and something we will never shy away from. The reviews we have already published into Manchester and Oldham have made for very difficult reading and we have to ensure Greater Manchester is doing better by those who need our help.
“I have been pleased to hear of the progress being made by Greater Manchester Police under Chief Constable Stephen Watson in its investigations in Oldham and Rochdale to bring justice to those who have previously been let down.
“Part Four of the review will once again be undertaken by independent experts, Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway, who - with the full cooperation of all ten councils, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Greater Manchester Police - will ensure we have a full picture of current practice to assess the progress that has been made in Greater Manchester multi-agency responses to CSE and also identify priority areas for further improvement.
“I’d like to thank all partners for their cooperation as well as the Maggie Oliver Foundation for its support in helping victims to get justice and make Greater Manchester a safer place.”
At the GMCA meeting in Tameside, Chief Constable Stephen Watson committed GMP’s full cooperation with part four of the review and gave updates on Operation Sherwood in Oldham and Operation Lytton in Rochdale.
GMP Chief Constable, Stephen Watson, told the GMCA meeting: “Operation Sherwood was set up to review the ten cases which were specifically reviewed as part of the Independent team’s remit in Oldham, plus a further case which was identified during the process, so 11 cases in total which a being scrutinised in forensic detail.
“The investigation is being led by our Child Sexual Exploitation Major Investigation Team, with 106 dedicated investigators involved. That represents a significant and entirely justified investment in ensuring we have the right numbers of people with the right training, the right attitude, bringing the very best possible current practice. It is being led by the same Senior Investigating Officer as Operation Lytton in Rochdale and comprises of the majority of the same team who have a really impressive track record in bringing people to justice.
“There’s a limit to what we can say as it is a live investigation, but it is important for me to advise that all survivors referenced in the Oldham report have been approached and spoken to. We’re talking about people who have experienced great trauma and huge sensitivity is required. There’s a very methodical, sensitive, professional wrap-around in respect of every one of these survivors. The investigations are progressing well but timescales in these cases are long and that should not be mistaken for lack of progress.
“Operation Lytton is a long-standing investigation which has dealt with offending between 2002 and 2006 in Rochdale and real progress has been achieved. Eight men in the first cohort were charged in April last year with 82 sexual offences including 32 rapes and these men are currently on trial at Minshull Street. The second cohort is 11 men, charged with 103 offences in May this year and their trial date is 13 January 2024. The third cohort, an additional ten, charged with 76 offences in May and a trial date for this cohort has been set for April 2025. The fourth cohort are currently with the Crown Prosecution Service and cohort 5 will be brought forward in the coming weeks and months.
“It is important to highlight Lytton as this has been going for eight years, but now you can see the proof in the pudding and that is in people being brought before our courts with very compelling evidence. I appreciate that sometimes these things can take longer, but timescales are tethered to the individual needs of victims. We have vulnerable people who have suffered great trauma and some of these people have locked this trauma away for the last two decades and this is all being reopened for them. We tread carefully, sensitively and professionally.
“I have a personal determination to pursue offenders to the very ends of what we are empowered to do. There can be no hiding space in Greater Manchester for people who have conducted themselves in this way. There is no place for people to hide.
“We are absolutely committed to the transparent, fulsome engagement with the Assurance Review process on the basis that we all learn together and GMP will enter that process with all humility and confidence that Greater Manchester is now in a totally different place.”
Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Fire, Kate Green, said: “I welcome the comments of the Chief Constable and his assurance that GMP will participate in any oversight and scrutiny process in a transparent and wholehearted way.
“We expect the reports into events in Rochdale, and the Greater Manchester-wide Independent Assurance Review by Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway will be completed by the end of this year. They both have impeccable credentials and the rigour of the independent assurance process under them cannot be called into question.
“I want to acknowledge the insights from the Maggie Oliver Foundation into the experience of victims and survivors, which form a crucial part of our review. And I would like to put on record our encouragement that any survivors who’d like to be heard or who require support, contact the Maggie Oliver Foundation – and there are other excellent organisations who offer support – in Oldham, Keeping Our Girls Safe, Victim Support, and others. That support is there for you.
“We bring forward the motion today because we need to demonstrate the commitment of all ten of our districts and Greater Manchester Police to bring the assurance review to a conclusion; to acknowledge past failures in our system; to demonstrate that we are learning from them; and to move forward, to deliver the service to victims and survivors, and to our children and young people, that they rightly expect and deserve.”
If you have information relating to these issues and you would like to contact someone about it or if you have been affected by these issues, please contact Greater Manchester Victim Support on 0300 303 0162. If you need support out of hours, call the Support Line on 0808 16 89 111.
The Maggie Oliver Foundation (TMOF) exists to create a society where survivors and those at risk of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) are empowered to live fulfilled and successful lives, and where every survivor is treated with dignity, respect and as an equal and valued member of society. TMOF can be contacted here: Self-Referral Form (themaggieoliverfoundation.com)
Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS) is a registered charity working with children and young people to Educate about unhealthy relationships, child sexual exploitation (CSE), grooming and risks; to Empower them to have confidence and self-esteem; and Inspire them to make positive life choices. KOGS can be contacted here: kogs.org.uk
For more information on Greater Manchester’s Independent Assurance Reviews around child sexual exploitation, visit: Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation - Greater Manchester Combined Authority (greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk)
Article Published: 30/06/2023 15:13 PM