Jaya Narain and James Tozer, Daily Mail, October 30, 2014
Child sexual exploitation has become the ‘social norm’ in some towns, a report warns today.
Schoolgirls are routinely being approached by much older men who ply them with alcohol, drugs and gifts as a way of grooming them for sex, says the study commissioned by police.
Figures in the report suggested almost 650 children reported missing in towns across Greater Manchester in 2014 were at risk of child sexual exploitation or serious harm.
But despite almost 13,000 reports of child sex abuse in the past six years, only 1,078 people were convicted, figures from Greater Manchester Police revealed.
The report’s author–Labour MP Ann Coffey–insisted police were making progress on the issue, but this prompted furious claims last night that the study ‘whitewashed’ the extent of police failings to deal with on-street grooming.
The study was also criticised for failing to address the fact that many street grooming gangs are made up by men of Asian origin.
The inquiry was commissioned following the Rochdale grooming scandal in 2012 when a gang of nine Asian men preyed on vulnerable young girls.
Today’s 148-page report–Real Voices, Child Sexual Exploitation In Greater Manchester–was commissioned by the local Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd. It said that in some districts young girls are regularly approached by men at the school gates or urged to get into cars while walking home from school.
Victims were sometimes blamed for the abuse, with descriptions of child prostitutes or ‘slags’ recorded by officers–even about children as young as 13.
In one case, officers did not consider a girl of 13 to be a victim as she was wearing ‘sexualised’ clothes, including a crop top.
Miss Coffey, chairman of the Commons’ all-party group for runaway and missing children and adults, said the child sex abuse cases in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Oldham, Oxford, Stockport and Peterborough were a ‘deafening wake-up call’. The Stockport MP added: ‘I have been concerned about the number of people who have told me that in some neighbourhoods child sexual exploitation had become the new social norm.’
The former social worker recommends a radical new approach to tackle the problem to be led by young people, which recognises that the police, justice system and children’ s services alone cannot succeed in protecting children, especially at a time of deep spending cuts.
She called for more thorough child sexual exploitation training of police officers and for the issue to be declared a public health priority just like drugs and obesity.
But her report ran into criticism last night.
Simon Danczuk, Rochdale MP, said: ‘This was a report commissioned by GMP and it lacks the independence needed to confront the deep problems in GMP that have allowed far too many paedophiles to get away with terrible crimes. This is the only report suggesting the police are making progress and it’s the first report commissioned by GMP.’
Samantha Roberts, who was raped by an Asian gang in Oldham when she was 12, said: ‘This report makes very depressing reading when I’ve done so much work campaigning against child sexual exploitation–I hoped we would have seen some improvements by now, but that just hasn’t been the case.
‘The report makes a valid point that not all grooming gangs across the country are Asian but it’s very clear that in Greater Manchester there’s an issue of girls being targeted by men from Pakistan and Bangladesh in particular.’
Home Secretary Theresa May said the report showed the way police were dealing with the problem was ‘not good enough.’
As the report was released, police in Manchester urged parents to be aware after a girl of 11 was sexually assaulted by an Asian man as she stood outside a shop on Tuesday at 5.45pm.
Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, said: ‘There is always more we can do to safeguard and support young people.’