A damning new report found girls were ‘at the mercy’ of paedophile grooming gangs, as it identified 96 men who still pose a potential risk to children.
The 173-page report into Operation Span – Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) much-criticised investigation into the grooming allegations in Rochdale – found children were at risk of grooming gangs for years due to an ‘inadequate’ response by police and council bosses.
Findings came as a result of a six-year investigation commissioned by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, which reviewed the cases of 111 children on police files from 2004 to 2013.
The report found evidence 74 of those children were being sexually exploited and in 48 of the cases there were ‘serious failures’ to protect them.
It also detailed numerous failed investigations by police as well as an apparent indifference by the local authorities to the plight of many children – mainly white girls from poor backgrounds, who were all identified as potential victims of abuse by Asian men.
Steve Watson, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, described its findings as ‘shocking, stark and shameful’.
He said: “One of the primary responsibilities of the police is to protect the vulnerable from the cruel and predatory, and in this regard, we failed you.”
He said lessons had been ‘well and truly learned’ and were ‘solidly baked’ into the systems used by police and partner agencies to implement child safeguarding today.
He continued: “I would never stand here and complacently assert that we are perfect, we are certainly not, and regrettably mistakes could well similarly be made into the future.
“But what I am saying is that our current practices and working arrangements have altered dramatically and are now reflective of the highest national standards.”
He also added that officers were now ‘better trained’ in child safeguarding.
The reports states there was also ‘compelling evidence’ of widespread sexual abuse of youngsters living in Rochadale from 2004 onwards.
In 2007, Sara Rowbotham, a crisis team leader, alerted GMP and Rochdale Council to the involvement of an organised crime group. Ms Rowbotham would go on to become the whistleblower in the scandal.
GMP identified the ringleaders of the gang but due to the children being too frightened to assist them, they did not proceed to investigate any further.
The report said this was a ‘serious failure’ to protect the children because it ignored the coercion and control the groomers had over the victims and their families.
It found a police investigation into two takeaways in the area, involving three adult male suspects, was aborted early because police bosses failed to resource it and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) deemed the main child victim an unreliable witness.
Following the launch of a specialist team in Rochdale in 2010, a child told a social worker of wide-scale abuse of children by up to 60 men.
A detective inspector requested for more staff to help investigate but it was denied by police bosses, according to the report.
“Once more children were left at the mercy of their abusers because of an inadequate response by GMP and children’s social care to the serious exploitation of vulnerable children,” the report said.
But it wasn’t until December, more than two years after police were told of the abuse centred around the two takeaway restaurants, that the force finally acted and launched Operation Span.
The operation led to the conviction of nine men in 2012 in a high-profile court case, where it was heard that girls as young as 12 were plied with alcohol and drugs before being gang raped in rooms above the takeaways.
Greater Manchester Police hailed it as a ‘fantastic result of British justice’ at the time.
However, the report found the police operation had failed to address numerous other crimes and ignored children’s allegations, which let their abusers off the hook.
The report concludes, the problem was not given ‘sufficient priority’ despite there being an awareness by police and children’s social care bosses of the scale of abuse involved.
Malcolm Newsam CBE, a childcare expert who co-authored the report along with Gary Ridgeway, said: “Successive police operations were launched, but these were insufficiently resourced to match the scale of the widespread organised exploitation within the area.
“Consequently, children were left at risk and many of their abusers to this day have not been apprehended.”
The report found Ms Rowbotham and Maggie Oliver, a former GMP detective who resigned from the force in disgust, were ’lone voices’ who had flagged clear evidence of ‘prolific serial rape of countless children in Rochdale’.
Ms Oliver has gone on to found The Maggie Oliver Foundation, a charity supporting adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse.
Speaking at a press conference about the report, Ms Oliver disagreed with the chief constable’s claim that the situation had improved. She said she would ‘say categorically’ that ‘the failures that happened then are still happening now’.
“We have more communication, for sure, but we do not have a system that supports victims, that listens to their voices, and when they do challenge the system, unfortunately, the organisation closes ranks,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mr Burnham praised both Ms Rowbotham and Ms Oliver for their ‘determination and courage’ in coming forward.
He said: “It is only by facing up fully and unflinchingly to what happened in all of its horrifying detail, we can be sure of bringing about the whole system culture change that is necessary on this critically important issue.”
Rochdale Council leader Neil Emmott said the council ‘are deeply sorry’ that Rochdale Council during the period 2004 to 2013 ‘did not recognise nor acknowledge the very serious failures that affected the lives of children in our borough and failed to take the necessary action’.
Going forward he said: “We will be ever vigilant in our efforts to ensure these awful failures don’t happen again and that children will be protected.”
Deputy Mayor for Police, Crime, Fire and Criminal Justice, Kate Green, said: “These reviews have been crucial for giving us a full and objective picture of non-recent child sexual exploitation in various parts of Greater Manchester.
“While this would have been difficult reading for GMP and Rochdale Council, I know they have taken it very seriously. I also know that attitudes and safeguarding practice have moved on.”
First ever permanent pug cafe to open in Greater Manchester
If you’re a fan of pugs, you’re going to love this!
A brand new cafe full of adorable and playful pugs is set to open in Greater Manchester.
You could go for a coffee and cake while 10 cute pugs cuddle, play and come for treats from your hands at this brand new cafe concept opening on Chapel Street in Salford.
Already a huge hit in London, with visitors from near and far, Cuppapug will be opening its first café in the North West – and its second venue – with a soft launch on Friday March 1st.
Pug lovers can book in at the cafe for an hour of crazy or chilled pug time, suitable for all the family to enjoy.
Cuppapug is a cafe concept created by couple – and owners of seven pugs – Aaron Carty and Matthew Pieterse, who opened the doors to their first venue in London in 2022.
Fully opening to the public on March 21st, visitors to Cuppapug can expect the adorable, furry four-legged friends running around the cafe, playing in ball pits and eating carrots and treats from your hands.
The menu will feature a host of doggy-themed drinks and cakes as well as treats for the doggos such as puppuccinos.
In case you’re wondering where the pugs go at the end of the day, each one belongs to local owners who drop their loveable fur baby off at the cafe for a day of mischief and fun.
Also in the CuppaPug family are Gaston, Bruce, Bowser, Beau, Gizmo, Bebe, and Baloo – Aaron and Matt’s pugs who’ve been staying with them at The Kimpton Clocktower as they prep the site for opening.
Speaking to Proper Manchester about the new opening, Aaron said: “We chose Manchester because we discovered it is a city full of dog lovers who love pugs.
“We get so many people visiting our London cafe from the North, we’ve even people catching flights from Hawaii, so it seemed like the right place to open our next Cuppapug.”
On why he and Matt love pugs so much, Aaron said: “I think of pugs being a lot like myself and I also love an underdog – and pugs are an underdog of the dog world.
“People think they are unfit, unhealthy and have breathing issues but that’s not true. We actually train our pugs to enjoy carrots, walk a lot, and our pet pugs enjoy a steak night every week – even I don’t get that!”
The Salford Cuppapug will also be partnering with Manchester Pug Thing, who rescue and rehome pugs, with £1 from every ticket going towards the pug rescue charity.
Aaron added: “We’ve had such overwhelming support and positive messages about our Manchester opening, it’s been absolutely amazing.
“It’s already a nerve-wrecking experience deciding to open a second venue but we’re really happy to have chosen to do it in Manchester and we’re really happy Manchester has chosen us. We’ve had so many drivers going past and beeping us and people asking ‘is this the pug place?’
“We’re having a launch party on March 21st and are really excited to open.”
CuppaPug officially opens to the public on March 21st 6-10pm, following a soft launch this Friday (March 1st). You can find the cafe and pugs on Chapel Street, Salford – it’s bright pink, you can’t miss it!
Primary school in Greater Manchester evacuated after nearby ‘gas explosion’
A primary school in Greater Manchester has been evacuated after a ‘gas explosion’ at a nearby house.
The incident happened earlier today (February 28th) near to St Luke’s primary school in Bury.
Councillor Tamoor Tariq said everyone who lived nearby has also been taken to a place of safety after the blast, which happened in the Fishpool area.
At around 12pm, he posted on Facebook: “Heartbreaking to share there has been a gas explosion in the last few minutes right across from my house.
“I understand everyone has been taken into a place of safety and emergency services are doing all possible to deal with this awful situation.
“St Luke’s primary have also evacuated children, as they are just yards away. I remain out of the country due to a family member being critical, but I am keeping in touch with all relevant people/authorities.”
In a further comment, Mr Tamoor added: “An elderly neighbour has been taken into hospital, all others affected are in a safe and secure place of their choosing. Praying our neighbour will be ok and get the treatment she needs.”
A Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said ‘multiple crews’ had been dispatched to the scene.
They added: “Residents in the area are advised to keep windows and doors closed and avoid the scene while crews carry out their work.”
A woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with ‘serious injuries’, Greater Manchester Police said.
Issuing a statement on social media, GMP said: “Emergency services are currently responding to a report of an explosion at a property on Nelson Street in the Fishpool area of Bury.
“At this stage, a woman in her 70s has been taken to hospital with serious injuries. A 200 metre cordon is in place around the property and neighbouring homes.
“Local residents and the community will be made aware if they need to take any further action.”
Iceland announces it’s discounting baby formula to cut price of £7.95
Iceland CEO Richard Walker says says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’
Iceland has launched reduced cost baby formula in a bid to do more to help families through the cost of living crisis.
Iceland CEO Richard Walker is determined to bring down the cost of baby formula, and says ‘businesses need to step up and do more’.
The businessman has made it his mission after hearing heartbreaking tales from parents who have been struggling to feed their families amid spiralling costs.
Mr Walker, a dad-of-two, told Metro: “We’ve heard terrible stories of customers watering down feeds, skipping feeds or ignoring sell by dates, all of which is really bad for the baby. That prompted us to take action.”
Iceland slashed prices earlier this year, revealing three of its Aptamil formula milk products would sell at £11.20 – a move which led other supermarkets including Asda and Tesco to reduce their own prices.
Now, Iceland has confirmed it is selling 800g of SMA’s Little Steps formula milk for £7.95 across its stores and online from Tuesday February 27th – £1.80 cheaper than its rivals.
Mr Walker insisted it’s not just a clever business move either, as he continued: “The price is a mind-blowing £7.95 which makes it the cheapest infant formula milk on the market. I think it will really really help our customers.
“We’re not making any profit out of this now. We’re passing on the savings which we’re managing to persuade the manufacturer to give straight on to our customers.”
The baby formula industry is currently under investigation after prices rose by an average of 25% in the past two years.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it is looking into whether companies have been exploiting parents for profit.
Iceland’s launch of lower priced baby formula has also gained the support of Mumsnet.
The eight-million strong parenting group have announced they are joining forces with Formula For Change – Metro’s campaign to lower baby formula prices.
Mr Walker has also signed the petition and is calling on parents to sign it and help push it over the line.
Politicians may soon be forced to address the scandal as the Formula for Change petition is almost at the 100,000 signatures mark – the crucial threshold needed for a parliamentary debate on the issue.
Mr Walker also told the publication: “Formula for Change is absolutely fantastic. The Prime Minister has said he is ‘sad’ families are watering down formula to try and make it last longer, but again these are just words.”