Criticism over handling of Rochdale rape claims

Rochdale town all Credit: ITV

Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service came in for particular criticism for how they handled a reported claim of rape by one of the girls highlighted in today's serious case review into grooing in Rochdale.

The review said two incidents took place before 2007 that had a "significant impact on the way in which events subsequently unfolded".

Her family reported to police that she had been raped, but there was no evidence of any investigation of this allegation at the time and in the words of the police's independent management review: "The fact that she was alive and had returned home appears to have been sufficient for police purposes to treat the incident as having been concluded."

The report said an officer from the police's public protection unit who visited the family was reassured by family members that they were just friendly with a group of "Asian" males, "which given the age difference and the concerns of their mother should have triggered a much more inquisitive mindset".

Less than a fortnight later the police were contacted by the girl's mother reporting her as having been driven off by three adult males and found later in a distressed state. On this occasion there was a police investigation and a file of evidence was sent to the CPS, which decided not to authorise a charge.

The report author, Sian Griffiths, said: "A significant factor in the decision-making by the CPS was the perception of (the girl's) credibility.

"The CPS advice was therefore based very considerably on consent by (the girl) although given that she had also been physically assaulted, sustaining injuries, the issue of consent could not have been an issue in relation to this allegation.

"The CPS independent management review further notes that the CPS focus appeared to be in looking for failings in the prosecution case rather than considering the weaknesses in the case for the defence.

"It is indicative of the approach taken that in assessing the evidential criteria the lawyer noted, 'The aggrieved is a young lady who is known for going with men and in particular Asians in this type of situation'."

The report said that although a detective chief inspector from Rochdale did subsequently write in general terms to the CPS with concerns, no formal appeal was made by the police against the CPS decision, as they were entitled to do.

The reports said: "The failure by agencies to pursue their concerns with other agencies is a repeating theme of this review. Since these events there has been significant recognition by the CPS of the failings in their decision-making at the early stages of these young people's experience and the need for a shift in mindset, policy and procedures.

"New guidance from the CPS emphasises the requirement for periodic proactive joint review of cases by police and CPS lawyers in cases of child sexual abuse. The CPS is also developing a new approach to enable victims to appeal against decisions in their cases.

"Whilst this is likely to provide an important safeguard in future decision-making, it is the view of the author that the significance of the lack of police challenge to the CPS, which has been acknowledged as a feature of this case, requires more than a reliance on CPS procedures and merits active consideration on the part of Greater Manchester Police.

"This episode, combined with the frustrations regarding allocation of resources felt by two experienced police officers, one of whom was evidently particularly committed to pursuing the investigation of CSE (child sexual exploitations), suggests that this is part of a wider difficulty in challenge within the police.

"GMP has provided examples to the review to evidence that it is making progress in creating a significant shift in culture to encourage greater challenge and where necessary escalation by officers. However, this issue is a longstanding and complex challenge for the police which like any organisational cultural change will require persistence and objective review in the long term."