Report finds GMP and Manchester City Council failed to protect over fifty children from child sexual exploitation in Manchester.

An independent review into police handling investigations into of child sex abuse and exploitation in Manchester has concluded that the police were aware of “profound abuse” but failed to protect the victims.

The review was commissioned by Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, to investigate the ways in which child sexual exploitation is addressed by public bodies in Manchester. It was conducted by former Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgeway and childcare expert Malcolm Newsam. The review constitutes the first half of a larger investigation following the broadcasting of, “The Betrayed Girls” the BBC documentary into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester, which aired in 2017.

In 2003, Victoria Agoglia, a fifteen- year-old child in the care of Manchester City Council, sadly died after she was forcibly injected with heroin by one of several men who had been sexually exploiting her. The report states that Victoria’s carers were aware that she suffered “multiple threats, sexual assaults and serious sexual exploitation” and that she and other children in care homes were picked up by groomers “in plain sight” of officials. However, no action was taken by GMP or Manchester City Council. In 2004, a fifty year old man was convicted of two offences of injecting Victoria with heroin and received a prison sentence of three and a half years. After her death, Manchester City Council stated that it had done all it could to protect Victoria.

Following Victoria’s death, GMP established Operation Augusta to identify the extent of child sexual exploitation in Manchester. As part of Operation Augusta, police identified at least 97 suspects of child abuse and at least 57 children as “potential victims” of a criminal network in South Manchester. However, the investigation collapsed after senior members of the police force reduced funding and resources without all lines of enquiry having been “successfully completed or exhausted”. At least fifteen victims were willing to provide evidence to assist Operation Augusta. However, in April 2005, the Chief Superintendent stated that it would not be able to provide staff to continue the operation. In August 2018, the Chief Constable of GMP, Ian Hopkins refused to reopen Operation Augusta despite requests from Victoria’s family.

Operation Augusta identified eight men who went on to commit further sexual offences once Operation Augusta was closed down, including serious sexual offences against children. Furthermore, a GMP officer was dismissed as they were linked to a suspect vehicle.

The authors of the report have said that they cannot say whether the alleged offences were “appropriately addressed by either GMP or Manchester City Council”. However, it also states that of 26 potential victims identified by police in 2004, “Most of the children we have considered were failed by police and children’s services.”  It also states that “Manchester City Council had parental responsibility for Victoria throughout this difficult period and due to poor professional practice and an absence of the most basic statutory child protection processes failed to protect her”.

Two men were arrested in connection with Victoria Agoglia’s death in September 2019 as a result. They have been released pending further enquiries. Mabs Hussein, the Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has indicated that a team has been established to review the information available in the Report and GMP has voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) for investigation.

19 of the 26 children mentioned in the report were in the care of Manchester City Council at the time of the abuse. The remaining children were in the care of other local authorities. The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, has apologised for the failings of social services and police. He has stated that “only by fully facing up to past failures that we will be able to correct them”.

Local authorities have a duty to protect children within their care. Failure to protect children from harm may give rise to a claim against the relevant local authority in negligence and pursuant to the Human Rights Act 1998.

The law is more complex with regards to potential claims against the police. Following the Supreme Court decision in the case of Robinson v West Yorkshire Police [2018], as a general rule, the police do not have a duty to protect members of the public from harm caused by a third party in tort law.  The police are normally under a duty to protect a person from a danger which the police themselves have created. However, pursuant to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and Anor [2018], under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the police do owe a positive operational duty to individual victims of particular crimes to conduct an effective investigation.

Here at Farleys, we have substantial experience of dealing with claims against local authorities and the Police arising from sexual abuse suffered by children in local authority care, including allegations of sexual abuse by grooming gangs, and other individuals in positions of power or trust.

Unfortunately, many victims will have suffered and may continue to suffer significant psychological harm due to the abuse they have suffered. We realise that this may affect the victims throughout their lives. However, pursing a claim often helps our clients to bring closure to their ordeal and to provide the resources to fund medical treatment and therapy they may require.

We appreciate that it can be very difficult to talk about what happened. We address all enquiries with sensitivity and in the strictest confidence. Call our specialist abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or email us today.