It is thought that at least 57 young girls are thought to have been targeted by a prolific 100 member paedophile grooming gang.
What makes things even worse is a damning report has now been revealed that police and social workers were aware of the gang which groomed, drugged and then raped emotionally vulnerable children, in one instance forcibly injecting one 15-year-old girl with heroin which led to her death two months later.
The victim known as Victoria was regularly abused along with other children from Manchester care homes whilst both police and social services turned a blind eye, failing to act to stop it.
In a shocking example of the abuses suffered by these vulnerable girls, 15 year old Victoria Agoglia (Byrne) was targeted by a number of men who were said to have come and gone freely from a care home she was living in at the time. Despite repeated attempts to raise the alarm with social workers she was ignored, sadly she died as a result of being forcibly administered Heroin by a gang member.
Mohammed Yaqoob then aged 50-years old, was cleared of her manslaughter after forcibly injecting her, he was instead jailed for just three and a half years for the administration of a noxious substance.
During the inquest into her death the coroner concluded that her death was unforeseeable, sickeningly a verdict was recorded which made reference to her 'propensity to grant sexual favours.
The new report however concludes that social services failed to protect both her and others.
In the wake of her death the short lived Operation Augusta was set up to investigate if their was a wider problem with grooming gangs across the region, yet despite the identification of a network involving at least 100 male asian suspects and the possibility that they had targeted scores of vulnerable teenage girls via takeaways in the Rusholme area, the investigation was shut down due to a 'lack of resources'.
This latest inquiry was commissioned by Metro Mayor Andy Burnham in 2017 who ordered a report into the local authorities handing of cases involving the sexual exploitation of children.
Experts Malcom Newsam and Gary Ridgway who carried out the inquiry, found that grave errors had been made and that young victims were failed.
Unfortunatley Victoria was not the only victim as many more young girls reported sexual abuse to social services only for their desperate pleas to go unheard.
It was noted that eight of the men identified during Operation Augusta went on to commit extremely serious sexual offences ranging from sexual activity with a child to even child rape.
The report concludes that most of the children they had identified as early as 2004 had been failed by both police and social services.
GMP has now launched a full investigative review of its own inquiries, despite previously stating as recent as 2018 that there was no commitment to do so.
Speaking on the findings of the inquiry, Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain, Head of Specialist Crime for Greater Manchester Police, said:
“We accept that authorities fell short of doing all they could to protect and support the child victims of sexual exploitation identified under Operation Augusta in 2004.
“Children should be able to expect those responsible for their care will do all they can to keep them safe and I want to apologise to all those vulnerable children who were let down. I can only imagine the pain and distress they must have gone through, which would have only been made worse by these failings. I am sorry they were let down and I am sorry they were not protected from harm.
“Many of the children were subject to the most profound abuse and, although the review team acknowledged there was much in Operation Augusta and the work carried out by the investigation team to be commended, we agree the overall operation was not to the standard rightfully expected from victims. We have made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct so that they can carry out an independent assessment to determine if there are any conduct matters that should be investigated.
“We and our partners at Manchester City Council have personally contacted all but one victim featured in the report to offer them any support we can ahead of it being published. Each contact was carefully planned with care professionals to ensure we were as sensitive as possible and further specialist support was offered.
“Of course back in early 2000s, the priorities for forces across the UK were very different. This has completely changed and today safeguarding the vulnerable is our absolute priority.
“After taking learnings from the Operation Span investigation in Rochdale and the significant convictions secured in 2013, we have worked closely with partners across Greater Manchester to develop a consistent standard in addressing the exploitation of young people. This approach puts the victim at the centre of everything we do, which ensures that proper support is provided by the right agencies and any safeguarding concerns are addressed.
“With this support from partners, it provides a stronger footing for police to prevent, disrupt and investigate these crimes. The work of these specialised teams under Project Phoenix has been recognised nationally as showing excellent working practice in tackling child sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester.
“Our work initially focused on child sexual exploitation. We have continued to learn and develop these principles with partners over the last six years. As a result we have made further improvements to our whole approach to tackling the abuse and exploitation of young people.
“These improvements include the introduction of specialist co-located multi-agency ‘Complex Safeguarding Teams’ in every district across Greater Manchester. These focus on all aspects of exploitation including CSE, criminal exploitation and modern slavery.
“A Major Incident Team has been established under Operation Green Jacket. This dedicated multi-agency team has already carried out a significant amount of disruption actions, as well as numerous safeguarding visits.
“We have been reviewing all the information available and now a full investigation has been launched. To date, this investigation has resulted in one man being arrested and another interviewed under caution in September 2019 in connection with the abuse of Victoria Agoglia. The men have been released under investigation and we have provided an update to Victoria’s grandmother on the progress of our enquiries.
“This remains an ongoing investigation and I would encourage anyone who was involved in the original operation as a victim, potential victim or witness to please come forward and contact us so that we and partner agencies can provide you with any support we can.
“We will continue to do all that we can to safeguard children within our communities. Greater Manchester Police will investigate any report of child exploitation that is made.”
As for Manchester Council, the review goes on to conclude that there were no doubts whatsoever that the council were unaware of what was going on within its own care homes and that failures were made. Social workers had been more than made aware yet had failed to act upon the information. The council now promises to act upon the information to ensure it never happens again.
Joanne Roney, chief executive, said:
“This report makes for painful reading. We recognise that some of the social work practice and management oversight around 15 years ago fell far below the high standards we now expect. We are deeply sorry that not enough was done to protect our children at the time.
“While we cannot change the past we have learned from it and will continue to do so to ensure that no stone is left unturned in tackling this abhorrent crime.
“The report concerns a period when, as in many other towns and cities, child sexual exploitation was an emerging issue all too often viewed through a lens of misunderstanding wherever it occured.
“The review itself acknowledges that how we tackle the sexual exploitation of children has improved considerably. Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police work together much more closely and effectively to identify young people at risk of exploitation, put safeguarding measures in place to protect them and pursue perpetrators.
“Recent scrutiny from independent expert bodies including Ofsted and the Local Government Association has also endorsed the positive impact of this co-ordinated work. Our most recent Ofsted visit was only last month and we understand their feedback, due to be published next week, will highlight partnership working, leadership and our complex safeguarding hub as particular strengths.
“Work to build up trusted relationships with potential victims is also having success - both in prevention and in the prosecution of offenders.*
“We want to reassure Manchester people that, more than a decade and a half of learning later, we are in a much better place and the approach to tackling child sexual exploitation has strengthened significantly.
“We are also working closely with other Greater Manchester local authorities to share best practice.
“We have not simply waited for the publication of this review. Since spring 2018, as soon as we became aware of concerns regarding cases in the early 2000s, we have been working with Greater Manchester Police to re-examine them and support reinvestigation wherever possible. Matters relating to the period covered by the review are subject to a live and ongoing police operation.
“As chief executive of the Council, I was a key member of the steering group that oversaw this review team’s work. We have fully engaged with the review and not shirked from confronting past shortcomings to help inform continuing improvements. While bad people will always try to prey on the most vulnerable, keeping children safe is our absolute priority. We cannot and will not be complacent.
“Our prime concern throughout this process has been the interests of the young people directly affected, ensuring that their identities were protected, they were kept informed and that effective actions were taken wherever possible in the interests of justice.
“We would urge anyone affected by this report to come forward to us or the police. They will be believed. They will be supported.”
It would seem the issue of Asian grooming gangs is more widespread than first thought, it is imperative to ensure that this behaviour is stopped and those committing horrendous crimes against vulnerable children are brought to justice.
f you have been affected by this case and wish to speak to police, or if you believe you have information that can assist the investigation team, they can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have been affected by this case and would like to seek support from specialist agencies but do not wish to speak to police, then Victim Support can be contacted on 08081689024