Rochdale grooming victims given personal apology and 'substantial' damages decade after court case

The three women met the Chief Constable at Greater Manchester Police headquarters

Victims of grooming gangs in Rochdale have received a personal apology and 'substantial damages' for police failings preventing their abusers from being brought to justice.

The three women met the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) who apologised for 'letting down' the victims who, as children, were repeatedly raped and sexually abused by gangs of men in Rochdale.

Stephen Watson apologised for the failure of the force to protect them and investigate the abusers, which happened under previous Chief Constables, including Sir Peter Fahy and his predecessor.

He told the women: "It is a matter of profound personal regret that your childhood was so cruelly impacted by the dreadful experiences which you endured.

"GMP could and should have done much more to protect you and we let you down."

But, Daisy, one of the three women, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said: "I don’t know if I believe that Greater Manchester Police have really changed their ways as they say they have."

She added: "But I’m happy that they’ve taken into account their failings and there’s finally been some accountability."

The abuse took place in Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, in the early 2000s.

As a result of police failures to respond to evidence, the men who had groomed the three children were able to continue physically, emotionally and sexually abusing them over a period of years.

Even after they were eventually asked to give evidence about their abuse, the majority of their allegations were not prosecuted, or even recorded as crimes.

Two of the three teenage girls were also repeatedly treated as criminals by the authorities.

Daisy has a childhood criminal record, meaning for some jobs she will have to disclose to employers that her 'criminal' past relates to a history of grooming and sexual abuse.

Another young woman, known as ‘Amber’, had to fight tirelessly for custody of her own children.

  • GMP whistleblower Maggie Oliver sums up how the girls, and those who have campaigned for them, are feeling

The apology comes a decade after nine members of the Rochdale grooming gangs were convicted following an investigation known as Operation Span.

In the same year Detective Constable Maggie Oliver, an officer who had worked on the investigation, resigned from the force and turned whistle-blower in protest at what she saw as gross failures to protect the victims on the part of the Chief Constable, senior police colleagues and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Stephen Watson, apologises to the three women

The women, backed by lawyers from the Centre for Women's Justice (CWJ) charity, were helped to bring a legal claim against GMP.

They say from the early 2000s there was growing evidence from multiple allegations that gangs of predominantly Asian men were grooming, trafficking and sexually abusing predominantly white working-class girls in Rochdale.

Lawyers for the three - one who was 14 and two who were 12 at the time - successfully argued their human rights were breached by GMP failing to protect them by putting a stop to the abuse.

This included failing to record crimes, investigate offenders, collect intelligence, or charge and prosecute abusers.

Instead of child victims of sexual abuse, the three were viewed by police as 'bad' or 'unreliable' witnesses and were sometimes arrested themselves while reporting abuse, the women said.

  • GMP whistleblower Maggie Oliver explains how the girls are feeling.

(L-R) Abdul Rauf, Adil Khan, Shabir Ahmed, Abdul Aziz were among nine men convicted in 2012 of serious sex offences in Rochdale.

Despite the abuse happening "in plain sight", a police operation to tackle the gangs was closed down abruptly in 2004, despite police and social services having the names of the men involved and their victims.

Eight years later, in 2012, Operation Span, saw nine men convicted for sexual exploitation.

The trial heard the girls, as young as 12, were plied with alcohol and drugs and gang-raped in rooms above takeaway shops, and ferried to different flats in taxis where cash was paid to use them.

Amber, said: "I feel like this is the first time I’ve really been seen and publicly recognised by authorities as an innocent child victim who needed protection."

Another of the women, known as 'BXW', who was depicted as the character Ruby in Three Girls, the award-winning dramatisation of the Rochdale grooming scandal, added: "The police were completely in the wrong for the way they treated us.

"I’m relieved that they’ve accepted that at last and that our legal case has come to an end."

Former detective constable Maggie Oliver resigned from GMP in 2012 to turn whistleblower over the force’s failings.

Maggie Oliver, founder of the Maggie Oliver Foundation, a charity that supports and advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse, said: "I feel relieved that finally, after an all-consuming 10-year battle, GMP have at last acknowledged their horrific treatment of these three victims was wrong, even inhumane."

Kate Ellis, a solicitor at the CWJ who acted for the three women, said: "We hope that today’s outcome will serve as a reminder to Greater Manchester Police, and other police forces, that they will be held to account if they fail to protect vulnerable children from exploitation and abuse."

GMP settled the claim before the matter got to court.