On 23 April 2013 Margaret Oliver walked into Farleys’ Manchester Office for a meeting to discuss Child Sexual Abuse in Rochdale. A former Detective Constable with GMP, she told a remarkable story of young girls being sexually exploited by gangs of men.
Any doubts I may have had about Maggie’s story were rapidly dispelled six weeks later when I had a further meeting with Sara Rowbotham who ran a sexual health advice service for teenagers in the Rochdale area.
The evidence presented by Maggie and Sara confirmed a huge scandal where gangs of Asian men were plying young girls with drink and drugs and sexually exploiting them. Girls were repeatedly raped by multiple perpetrators yet the authorities had failed to act.
This week the BBC airs a three-part series telling the true story of what happened. Maggie and Sara, who have worked tirelessly to expose the truth, will be played by Lesley Sharp and Maxine Peake respectively.
Prior to Rochdale I had represented a couple of victims of paedophile gangs but the scale of abuse was unprecedented. There have been subsequent scandals in various towns including Rotherham and Oxford but Rochdale was the start.
I have acted for various Rochdale victims including two of the “Three Girls” and have advised the production team behind the drama. I fully expect the nation to be shocked by what went on and in particular the failure of the authorities to protect these most vulnerable members of society.
It will make for difficult viewing. These girls, and in some cases boys, were treated inhumanely. They were exploited remorselessly and the response of the authorities to the gang rape of a 13 year old? “This was a lifestyle choice”
Public attitudes have changed and with it a change in the way the authorities treat these cases. There have been numerous convictions following the pioneering work of Sara and Maggie.
This week will be a difficult one. As a solicitor heavily involved in this area of work this will be a tough watch. For abuse victims it will be a trauma. I have already spoken to one client who was reduced to tears by the trailer for “Three Girls” – she has suffered similar exploitation as a child growing up in the North East of England.
My personal hope is that “Three Girls” shows the wonderful work done by Maggie and Sara and raises public awareness as to how badly the authorities failed these children.
Farleys Abuse department have extensive experience of dealing with both historic and current abuse cases. To speak to a specialist abuse lawyer please call 0845 287 0939 or you can email here.