Posted on October 31, 2014

Police ‘Put Cap on Arrests’ in Rochdale Sex Abuse Inquiry

Jaya Narain, Daily Mail, October 30, 2014

Dozens of child sex offenders are still walking the streets because police refused to arrest them, according to a whistleblower.

Sara Rowbotham has accused police of putting a cap on the number of child sex offenders they arrested for raping and abusing young girls.

The veteran social worker, who was responsible for gathering the main evidence in the 2012 Rochdale child sex abuse case, said that as a result dozens of sex offenders were still walking the streets preying on children.

Miss Rowbotham said limited resources and manpower during the investigation meant police had let sex offenders slip through the net.

She said because police bosses became obsessed with convicting just nine perpetrators they left dozens free to continue raping and abusing young girls.

‘It’s very shocking but there are dozens of child sex offenders still on the streets because they put a cap on the number of people they would arrest,’ she said.

‘In the end this was just a tiny proportion of the number of offenders raping and abusing children and they were allowed to escape.

‘But not only did they cap the number of offenders but they also put a ceiling on the number of victims they would interview and proceed with.’

Her explosive comments will stun Greater Manchester Police whose Police and Crime Commissioner yesterday launched a report highlighting the massive problem of child sexual exploitation.

The report highlighted 13,000 cases of child sex abuse in the last six years but revealed that only 1,078 offenders were convicted.

Commissioner Tony Lloyd has vowed to go back and review cases where victims have made sex abuse allegations.

But Miss Rowbotham, a social worker in Rochdale for more than 13 years, said the police were still doing far too little to combat on-street grooming.

She said: ‘It’s still going on. The same perpetrators are still out there because police put a ceiling on the number of arrests. The actual number of suspects is huge but the number of victims is equally large.

‘They are still having to deal with the trauma of that on a day-to-day basis knowing no-one has ever been brought to justice for abusing them.’

In 2012 nine Asian men were jailed for a total of 77 years for rape and trafficking after they preyed on girls as young as 13, plying them with drugs, alcohol and money before passing them round the group for sex.

A subsequent report said the girls were allowed to fall into the hands of Pakistani grooming gangs because police and social workers may have been scared of seeming racist.

The whistleblower said she was still disappointed that no one has been held to account for their failings and she was disappointed with the results of a report led by MP Ann Coffey.

The MP said the child sex abuse cases in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Oldham, Oxford, and Peterborough were a ‘deafening wake-up call’.

She has proposed measures aimed at improving arrest and conviction rates of child sex offenders in Greater Manchester.

These included a review of cases marked ‘no further action’, new initiatives led by children themselves and more training for public sector workers to recognise grooming.

But the whistleblower said she was still disappointed no one has been held to account for their failings and was disappointed with the results of the Coffey report.

She said: ‘The victims deserve their evidence to be taken seriously. I referred dozens of cases to the police that I know were never acted upon.’

Miss Rowbotham, who fought for a Serious Case Review and was commended for her work by the Home Affairs Select Committee, was made redundant in February.

Ian Hanson, chairman of Greater Manchester Police Federation, said: ‘It is grossly unfair that both the organisation and our police officer members collectively are singled out and blamed by some for what is a failure of the whole system.

‘We expect officers to build relationships with victims in the most difficult circumstances imaginable in a fraction of the time where often the education and social care system has failed to do so. Only when we understand the whole problem and the challenges involved will society start to deal with those issues.’

Detective Superintendent Jonathan Chadwick said: ‘Operation Doublet was launched in the aftermath of Operation Span in 2012 to investigate all outstanding historic allegations of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale from the same era.

‘This investigation has examined massive amounts of material held by all agencies and provided support to a large number of victims as well as arresting a significant number of offenders.

‘Doublet remains an on-going investigation with a large number of investigative staff deployed in building relationships of trust with victims and dealing with those responsible through the criminal justice system wherever possible.’