Social workers, police and the Crown Prosecution Service "missed opportunities" to stop a gang of South Asian men exploiting and abusing young white girls in Rochdale, Manchester, a report into the scandal has revealed
MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, said the failure of authorities to protect the children, meant the men "must have thought 'we can get away with raping girls for as long as we want'."
The "patchy" training of frontline staff was to blame for the way children's social care responded to the victims, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its review into child sexual exploitation.
The review was ordered after the nine men – 8 from Pakistan and one from Afghanistan - were jailed for grooming young white girls for sex.
The picture which emerges is one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, who were being targeted for sexual abuse and written off by authorities who believed the girls were "making their own choices".
Mr Danczuk said the investigation "confirms this culture within Rochdale council, as case files show social workers believed young girls who were raped were 'making their own choices' and 'engaging in consensual sexual activity'.
"What this report shows is that young girls' cries for help were systematically ignored and I'm in no doubt that the poor response by council services would have emboldened the criminal to make them think they could carry on abusing with impunity."
He added: "They knew the girls had been to the police and social services and because nothing happened they must have thought 'we can get away with raping girls for as long as we want'. This report only looks at one case and clearly shows a culture of neglect.
"The more thorough Serious Case Review I am sure will reveal an even worse picture."
Jon Brown, sexual abuse lead for the NSPCC, said: "Yet again we see similar concerns and failings coming up in cases of grooming gangs.
"The report states that victims were viewed as 'making their own choices' and 'engaging in consensual sexual activity' even though they were below the age of consent.
"No one can consent to sexual abuse, whatever their age, and children under 16 can never consent to sex. The adults involved must always be held fully responsible for what happens."
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 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."
The report also says: "Activity to disrupt alleged offenders was developing on the ground but this was not always followed through at a more senior level.
"The early investigations of crimes and the prosecution of alleged offenders were flawed."
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."
She added: "Raising awareness so that young people are better equipped to understand what is happening to them or their friends has been delivered to 10,000 young people.
"Staff training has ensured that professionals are now more aware and able to respond appropriately.
"We are also seeing stronger joint working on police operations to bring people to justice."
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