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'Missed chances' in abuse scandal
Social workers, police and the Crown Prosecution Service "missed opportunities" to stop a child exploitation ring abusing young girls, a report into the scandal has revealed.
"Deficiencies" in the way children's social care responded to the victims' needs in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were caused by "patchy" training of frontline staff, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its review into child sexual exploitation.
The review was ordered in the aftermath of a trial which saw nine Asian men jailed for grooming young white girls for sex.
The picture which emerges from the report is one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, who were being targeted for sexual abuse, being written off by those in authority who believed the girls were "making their own choices".
The review comes just days after The Times published a report which alleged that agencies in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, were aware of extensive and co-ordinated abuse of white girls by some Asian men and detailed a range of offences for which no-one has been prosecuted.
Rochdale Council said it has used the review's findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements. The report looked at how agencies including the council, police, NHS and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked between 2007 and 2012 to safeguard children and young people who were at risk of sexual exploitation.
The report, which specifically followed the treatment of one 15-year-old victim, says: "While some organisations were consistently supportive in their response, overall child welfare organisations missed opportunities to provide a comprehensive, co-ordinated and timely response and, in addition, the criminal justice system missed opportunities to bring the perpetrators to justice."
RBSCB chairwoman Lynne Jones said: "We have responded to this review and improvements have been implemented. I believe organisations are working better together, sharing information to ensure children are protected and that perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted."
Richard Scorer, a solicitor for some of the abused girls, said it was "very likely" they would be taking legal action against the authorities for failing to protect them. Mr Scorer told ITV's Daybreak programme the report was "very, very damning", and highlighted "a whole catalogue of failings, mainly by Rochdale social services".
He added: "What they also want to see is some cultural change in social services and hopefully the report is the first stage of that, but they want to press home that point and the legal action is part of achieving that. I think there was a view in social services that somehow these girls were making their own choices about this. The reality is that they were trapped in this situation. They were victims of violence and threats of violence."