Monday 26th February 2024,
North Yorks Enquirer

Rochdale Grooming Scandal & NYP

Rochdale Grooming Scandal & NYP

by TIM HICKS

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The NYE’s crime journalist Tim Hicks covers the shocking findings of the independent review into the failure of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and other agencies to investigate and prosecute men who indulged in child sexual exploitation in Rochdale, and its implications for North Yorkshire Police (NYP).

The article has links to the documentary “Betrayed Girls” and the conference on the outcome of the review into these events, for our police readers. We hope they will take the time to view them, particularly senior officers.

Introduction:

For years, vulnerable girls aged 11 to 17 years old were groomed by gangs of men in Rochdale. These men plied them with drugs and alcohol, then raped them and trafficked them to other men in Oldham, Nelson, Leeds and Bradford. If the girls resisted, they were threatened and beaten.

This was done with the full knowledge of GMP Senior and Chief Police Officers, who covered it up and supressed investigations.

In 2017 a BBC television drama series “Three Girls” was broadcast on three consecutive nights and was followed shortly afterwards by the documentary “Betrayed Girls”. I have not been able to obtain a link to “Three Girls” series, (preview here), but “Betrayed Girls” can be viewed here.

These two programmes highlighted the failings of GMP to protect vulnerable girls from sexual abuse and showed that GMP had not improved since the death of Victoria Agoglia and the failure of Operation Augusta in 2003. This media coverage led Mayor Andy Burnham to establish an independent review to ascertain what happened.

The review has now reported, leading to widespread criticism of GMP and Rochdale Council.

Heroes and Heroines

The heroes and heroines of this situation are:

  • GMP Detective Constable (DC) Margaret (Maggie) Oliver, who resigned from GMP in 2012 over its failure to investigate sexual abuse of children and has devoted herself ever since then to exposing what went wrong and campaigning for improvements in policing through The Maggie Oliver Foundation.
  • Sara Rowbotham of the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team, who did everything in her power to protect the children from abuse and as a result, her life was threatened, she was made homeless, made redundant and then smeared for her diligence. An emotional Sara describes the impact on her of the vilification she was subjected to here.
  • Mayor Andy Burnham, for ordering the review.
  • Nazir Afzal the former CPS Chief Prosecutor for the North West of England, who ordered the cases be re-opened and prosecuted.
  • The review’s authors; child care expert Malcolm Newsam and retired Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgeway, and their staff, for having to go through harrowing details of abuse to get to the bottom of what went wrong. Then writing a clear and open report.
  • The journalists that produced the above two documentaries and who covered the Rochdale abuse scandal and others, and kept them in the public eye. The review would not have happened without media coverage.

The Report

The findings of the review were summarised at a press conference given on Monday the 15th of January 2024 which can be viewed here.

This revealed:

  • There had been widespread organised sexual abuse of children between 2004 and 2012 in Rochdale.
  • In 2007 GMP was notified that organised crime groups (OCGs) were trafficking children in Rochdale, but did nothing about them.
  • Successive’ police operations failed to tackle the widespread exploitation of children because senior officers starved them of resources.
  • GMP did not record many crimes reported to them by children, thereby making the force crime figures look better than they were and leaving the perpetrators free to continue their abuse of children with impunity.
  • Individuals who still pose a risk to children have not been prosecuted.
  • Senior GMP officers failed to address what was clearly a strategic issue, which was well known within GMP.
  • Many GMP officers refused to be interviewed by the review.
  • GMP accused victims of being criminals.

In the conference, Chief Constable Watson of GMP accepted the findings of the report and that his force let victims down. He then went on to assert that things have improved and these failings can no longer occur. In her response here, Maggie Oliver contradicts Chief Constable Watson and states that nothing has changed.

The NYE has had dealings with GMP over the murder of Helen Sage and our experience supports Maggie’s view that nothing has changed. Helen was a single mum who was devoted to her daughter and did sex work in Manchester to pay for her upbringing. She disappeared in August 1997. It is obvious that she has been murdered and her body concealed. However GMP is refusing to record the disappearance of this vulnerable young mum as a murder. Just as it refused to record the crimes committed against the Rochdale victims, preferring to record it as a missing person, so it does not appear on their crime statistics.

The Impact of the Rochdale Grooming Scandal on NYP

I would like to say how much I admire the victims who came forward to give evidence, despite having been let down in the past. I can only hope that their courage will result in improvements that will prevent other girls suffering abuse.

For some time, I have been investigating a gang of predatory police officers that have been abusing women in NYP custody suite(s). They have all been protected by the Chief Constable, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and the Police, Crime & Fire Panel.

There have recently been major developments on this investigation, which I will cover in a forthcoming article. I hope the Rochdale review will have an impact on this scandal. The NYE will continue to work with the Maggie Oliver Foundation to expose these officers, so women and girls are protected from them and they can be arrested in the normal way.

The biography of retired NYP Chief Constable Dave Jones (pictured above right) states:

In 2002, he was promoted to [GMP] Chief Superintendent, Head of Crime Support and in January 2004 ……. Head of CID with responsibility for the investigation of the most complex and serious of offences.

From February 2006 until April 2007 he was Temporary Assistant Chief Constable, with responsibility for tackling serious and organised crime….”

So from 2004, Jones commanded GMP CID with responsibility for tasking of detectives and resourcing of investigations, when Operation Augusta was being under-resourced. He was later responsible for investigating OCGs when multiple child trafficking OCGs were left alone to carry on abusing children.

This 2020 Manchester Evening News article reveals that Jones was one of the officers responsible for dropping the investigation into child sexual abuse and refused to appear before the review to give evidence.

As NYP Chief Constable, Jones was involved in controversies revealed by the NYE:

  • A York pensioner and World War 2 veteran was locked out of her home when she was taken ill abroad, while a relative tried to sell it and pocket the proceeds. This was financial abuse within the meaning of NYP safeguarding policy. However, as with GMP, the plight of this vulnerable woman was completely ignored and NYP tried to criminalise her carer, Nigel Ward and I.
  • Jones claimed expenses for the cost of his attendance at a Police Federation dinner dance in Harrogate.
  • He charged police funds for two trips to Belfast, for which there is no explanation given and which NYP, the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner and the Police Fire and Crime Panel all refused to comment on. The first in September 2014 cost the taxpayer £407.52. For the second in May 2017 he flew to Belfast and stayed overnight at a hotel then flew to London Heathrow, travelled by train to London Kings Cross and stayed overnight in a hotel returning the next day. Cost to the taxpayer £409.82.
  • Jones retired from NYP in 2018 by submitting his application to retire, then going on annual leave for two weeks, followed by full time sick leave for his notice period of three months.
  • He voted himself police funds to pay for his legal expenses for a civil action against myself and Nigel Ward, so he could benefit financially. He did not recuse himself from the decision to vote the funds, although he had a conflict of interest and the action -which he led- was hopelessly misconceived. Predictably it failed, costing the North Yorkshire taxpayer hudreds of thousands of pounds, but he did not re-pay the money. This got Jones a mention in Private Eye, the first time it has criticised a Chief Constable since the 1970s.

In the conference, Mayor Burnham stated that he has requested that internal disciplinary action is to be taken against some GMP officers over the scandal. Jones is probably one of them. However, in this extract, Maggie Oliver states that the police complaints system does not work and protects police officers across all forces from being prosecuted for misconduct. Based on my own experience with NYP, I concur. I predict that no action will be taken against Jones.

The NYE’s senior reporter Nigel Ward writes:

“I have observed the painfully slow emergence of truth on the Rochdale abuse scandal, dragged out of the Police and Rochdale Council bit by reluctant bit, with nothing short of horror and disgust.

Having been threatened and bullied myself, my admiration for Maggie Oliver and Sara Rowbotham, for the way they stood up to authority and did the right thing, is boundless. It has always been tough being a whistleblower and both ladies have demonstrated exemplary personal courage beyond all measure in fighting against child sexual exploitation.

I take great satisfaction from the work that the Enquirer has done to help to protect children and expose Police misconduct. In particular, my work with Tim exposing the Peter JACONELLI/Jimmy SAVILE paedophile ring in Scarborough and Whitby – and the way that NYP and Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) covered it up – stands out as a milestone on a long and lonely road. As in Rochdale, no Police Officer or Councillor has ever been held to account. That Whitby Town Councillor John Nock, who defended JACONELLI, remains in office is an affront to human decency.

I was very moved by Sara Rowbotham’s comments above and Tim’s coverage of the ordeal she underwent for speaking out. Tim and I understand first-hand how damaging and hurtful this can be. We too came under enormous pressure (from NYP and SBC) for speaking out. We were both subjected to an ultimately unsuccessful civil action by NYP. At one time, the SBC Leader, who was formerly (during the JACONELLI years) the Senior Police Officer commanding the Scarborough area, stated that the NYE should be subject to “threat and retaliation” as a justification for recommending civil proceedings against us. To this day, Tim is still stone-walled by NYP and the Police, Fire & Crime Commissioner, which we both believe is in retaliation for having revealed that NYP protected SAVILE and JACONELLI – still the worst case of Police corruption in the history of policing in North Yorkshire.”

The review would not have happened without media coverage. This shows why it is essential that journalists hold public bodies to account. The NYE will continue to cover NYP and to hold it to account.

A draft of this article was forwarded to GMP, NYP, The Office of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner and the Police Fire and Crime Panel for North Yorkshire, with an invitation to provide a media statement. GMP Press Office provided a helpful response which has been incorporated in the article. The other organisations did not respond.

Appeal for Information

If you are a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation in North Yorkshire and are dissatisfied with the NYP response, if you have been watched while showering by a male custody officer, or if you have been abused while in custody, please contact the NYE in strictest confidence using our email address news@nyenquirer.uk

Right of Reply

If you are mentioned in this article and do not agree with the views expressed in it, or wish to correct any factual inaccuracy, please let me know using the letters@nyenquirer.uk email address and your views and/or a correction will be published if appropriate.

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