How Greater Manchester Police failed Rochdale’s girls
Plus: It doesn’t look like Metrolink will reach Bolton
Dear Millers — this morning, Mollie was one of the journalists invited to read a damning new report into how the authorities failed the victims of sexual abuse in Rochdale. The report says children “were left at the mercy of their abusers” and raises major questions about the conduct of Greater Manchester Police. We’ve spoken to one of the report’s authors and have a run-down of the key points below.
Also in today’s briefing: our weatherman predicts the coldest week of the winter – including a bit of snow in the early hours of tomorrow morning. And we bring news of Metrolink probably not reaching Bolton and the closure of a much-loved restaurant in Chorlton.
Over the weekend, we published a glorious piece from Phil Griffin, looking back to when he worked at Piccadilly Radio 261, which prompted dozens of comments from Millers. “In this ‘All Media, Everywhere, All The Time’ landscape where you can access anything just on your phone, it’s perhaps hard to explain just what an impact Piccadilly Radio had when it launched,” commented David Dunne. “What a great read,” wrote Jan Hicks. “Piccadilly 261 was the radio station of my youth — I'm of the Mike Sweeney, Mike Shaft, Mark Radcliffe, Timmy Mallett generation, listening through the 80s.”
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⛅️ This week’s weather
Our local weatherman Martin Miles says winter will “bite hard” this week, before loosening its grip over the weekend. “Our coldest week of the winter so far before a return to mild, wet and windy weather”.
Tuesday ⚠️ A cloudy and icy start with showery outbreaks of light snow. Turning drier and brighter towards lunchtime, then rain, sleet and snow into the evening. Max 3°C.
Wednesday ⚠️ Mostly sunny but feeling very cold with an ongoing risk of ice as ground temperatures remain below freezing. Severe frost overnight. Max 2°C.
Thursday 🌤️ Clear and very cold to start before another largely sunny day with light winds. Odd snow shower in the west. Max 3°C.
Friday ⛅️ Milder and breezy with bright spells but turning cloudier later. Max 5°C.
Weekend 🌧️ Relatively mild although windy and unsettled with some rain.
You can find the latest forecast at Manchester Weather on Facebook — daily forecasts are published at 6.15am.
The big story: Major report highlights shocking child abuse failings in Rochdale
Top line: An independent review into child sexual exploitation in Rochdale has found massive failings in the way Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Rochdale Council handled reports of sexual exploitation. It says children “were left at the mercy of their abusers”.
Scale of the problem: The report, known as an “independent assurance review”, was prepared by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway. It covers the period between 2004 and 2013 and reviewed the cases of 111 children. Of these 111, 74 children were sexually exploited, and in 48 cases there were “serious failures” to protect them.
Reaction: Andy Burnham, who commissioned the review after taking office in 2017 as part of a series of similar probes, responded by saying:
“This report is hard to read. It gives a detailed and distressing account of how many young people were so seriously failed…It is only by facing up fully and unflinchingly to what happened that we can be sure of bringing the whole system culture change needed when it comes to protecting children from abuse.”
Harrowing: In one particularly upsetting example of poor police practice, GMP secretly took a 13-year-old girl’s aborted foetus for DNA tests. The police then placed it in a freezer and forgot about it until a routine property search took place some time later. Neither the victim nor her parents were informed that this would happen.
Lack of protection: When cases reached court, the report finds that GMP left victims to be harassed and intimidated by their abusers. A girl known as Child 44 described being threatened with a gun before her case went to trial. When asked how the police responded, she said: “They didn’t. They just said lock your door.”
Zoom out: GMP have made 432 charges since the Rochdale grooming scandal came to light, which have resulted in 32 convictions for perpetrators, many with lengthy prison sentences. As of today, an additional 34 individuals have been charged with multiple offences relating to child sexual exploitation and are due to stand trial this year and next.
The case of Amber: The report tells the story of a child victim named Amber, who was named as a co-conspirator in the sexual exploitation of other children, an allegation that she was unable to defend herself against and which she has repeatedly denied.
Newsam and Ridgway described this as “deplorable further abuse of a CSE survivor” and questioned why a child could be named in court on an indictment for an offence that she had not been formally charged with.
It led to her being nicknamed “the Honey Monster” and being described in a report in the Daily Mail as a “teenage girl pimp” who played a “sick role” in exploiting and procuring other young women for sex.
Speaking to The Mill this morning, Ridgway described hearing dozens of disturbing stories from child victims, but he told us: “the thing that personally affected me the most was the decisions around Amber going on the indictment… I genuinely couldn’t understand why there wasn’t enough support given to protect her and tell her… It was obvious, really, that would have massive implications for her.”
Sara Rowbotham, a former sexual health worker who blew the whistle on the abuse in Rochdale, was praised for her persistence in alerting the authorities as to what was happening despite being ignored and told that she was “difficult to work with”.
Rowbotham said in a statement today: “It is disgusting that we were disbelieved, scrutinised, misrepresented, scapegoated, and then publicly and nationally discredited by both the police and local authority.”
Rowbotham also alleges that GMP and Rochdale Council delayed sharing information with the review team until four years after Andy Burnham commissioned the review in 2017. “They were pushing back and pretending that these things hadn't happened. They didn't want the truth to come out."
GMP’s Chief Constable Stephen Watson, responding to the report, said: “It remains a matter of profound regret that victims of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale in the early 2000s were failed by Greater Manchester Police — to them, I apologise."
Officers review: Watson promised that “lessons have well and truly been learned” and added that the force would be “revisiting our findings and submissions” in respect of 13 current GMP officers, who were serving at the force at the time of the abuse.
Go deeper on this story:
Read Jack’s interview with Sara Rowbotham about the psychological toll of the past two decades.
Your Mill briefing
🚃 Extending the Metrolink to Bolton wouldn’t be cost-effective, according to a report from Transport for Greater Manchester. The Bolton proposal has been a topic of debate since 2019, when transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government would commit to extending the Metrolink line if re-elected. But TfGM now say the benefits of the line would be outweighed by the costs. The report says the amount of green space along the two possible routes “lowers demand and, consequently, revenue,” making both options “poor value for money.”
🥢 The Thirsty Korean, the much-loved neighbourhood restaurant on Manchester Road in Chorlton, has announced it will be closing down, at this location at least. Owner Eunji Noh says the restaurant is coming to the end of its five-year lease and she is yet to decide what to do next. You might remember Noh’s name: she was a key voice in our piece about Manchester Confidentials: Bad reviews: Has Manchester’s restaurant scene had enough of Mark Garner?
📝 Manchester City Council leader Bev Craig tells The Business Desk what she has planned for 2024. Craig says she is looking not just for big partnerships with international business, but also marked improvements in education and service provision. She tells Michael Taylor that she is focused on broadening opportunity for those who grow up here, not just people who come here to study.
🏚 Tenants of Rochdale Boroughwide Housing — the group responsible for the property where two-year-old Awaab Ishak died as a result of mould in 2020 — say they still have issues with mould and are worried for their health. One said the landlord told her that her family’s mould problems were "due to them breathing too much at night".
🥰 Metro Café, the spiritual home of The Mill (Joshi and our first reporter Dani started working out of there in 2020, long before we had an office), got a nice mention in this Guardian piece about cafés across the UK fusing classic British menus with other cuisines. At Metro Café, owner Majid Novin keeps the full English on the menu but also offers Persian beef stews and Fesenjān, an Iranian chicken stew made with pomegranate molasses and walnut sauce.
Home of the week
This beautiful three-bedroom terraced house in Leigh is on the market for £175,000, with a modern kitchen and fireplace.
Our favourite reads
“Paula Vennells stood at the podium of the theatre packed with pupils from a leading boys’ school, reeling off a list of her successes at the helm of the Post Office,” opens this sweeping profile of the organisation’s disgraced former chief executive. Now accused of playing a key role in the Post Office scandal, Vennells used to tell people her “working-class Manchester” upbringing inspired her to “give back”.
How the North-South divide began — The Telegraph
Where did the North-South divide come from? When was it drawn? And, how does it affect us? This piece goes all the way back to the “kings of the north” in 600 AD through to today, taking in how and where dividing lines were drawn and the “feeling of northerness” that imbues those who see themselves as such. It also looks at how the stereotypes that have built up over the years can be turned on their head. How, for example, northerners don’t lack grace, but are just straight-talking. These presumptions “boomerang back into the eye of the beholder” writes Dr Matthew Green. “What can seem like a badge of shame, worn right, can be a mark of pride.”
How agent jailed over cricket fixing scandal became major figure in boxing — The Sunday Times
It has been revealed that Mazhar Majeed — one of the most controversial figures in cricket, jailed in 2011 for his part in the fixing of a test match between England and Pakistan — helped a boxing promoter from Manchester become an influential figure in the sport. Boxxer, the promotion company started by Ben Shalom from his flat in Cheetham Hill seven years ago, made a six-figure payment to a company connected to Majeed. This is despite Shalom being regarded as “a clean-cut visionary” who offered a departure from boxing’s past links to criminals.
Our to do list
❓ The Philosophy Café runs on the third Tuesday of each month at Manchester Art Gallery. Staff lead the session, with small groups breaking off to discuss life’s bigger questions, as well as a piece of artwork on display at the gallery. It’s free and starts at 10:15am.
🎷 Nuada, a jazz trio whose sound “encompasses soaring melodies” and “razor sharp rhythmic manipulation”, will be playing at Matt and Phreds. It’s free entry, doors at 6pm.
🎻 Chris Emerson, member of the Hallé Orchestra and the Manchester-based Trio Fauve, will be playing all six of Bach’s cello suites on the viola at the Anthony Burgess Centre. Starts 7pm, tickets here.
💡 Light up Late will mark the start of the University of Manchester’s 200th birthday celebrations. Starting at 18:24 to mark the university’s founding year, there will be music and poetry, plus a chromesthesia performance (recreating sound-to-colour synesthesia, i.e turning sounds into colours). It’s free to attend, details here.
🍸 There’s a kombucha fermentation masterclass (plus supper afterwards) at Bernie’s Canteen in Altrincham. You’ll get a “living” cocktail — or a non-alcoholic alternative for the dry-Janners — followed by the fermentation course, taking your own kombucha home afterwards. Tickets are £60, starts 7pm.
⭐ You can paint Van Gogh’s Starry Night at this sip and paint event in Worsley. “Unleash your creativity – wine glass in one hand, paint brush in the other. No experience needed!” Tickets are £34.99, starts 7:30pm.