The police watchdog has announced that it is now investigating three former Greater Manchester Police officers that led an inquiry into child sex grooming.
The investigation follows a critical review released in January that centred on the death of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia, who died in 2003 after reporting being raped and injected with heroin by her 50-year-old male abuser. The review found that authorities had a tendency to turn a blind eye to grooming gangs rather than prosecute, and had failed to protect vulnerable young girls being exploited.
Two of the officers being investigated have since retired and a third is now working for another organisation, according to the BBC.
Police told to target ‘other ethnicities’
Operation Augusta was a 2004 inquiry into child sexual exploitation by predominantly Pakistani men, launched following the death of Victoria Agoglia. The January review into the inquiry revealed that Greater Manchester Police officers had been told to focus their efforts on arresting suspects of child exploitation who were not ‘Asian’ so as not to be accused of racism.
Among other findings, the review also found that the inquiry was deliberately under-resourced by senior officers and then promptly closed down in 2005. The inquiry had initially identified some 57 victims of child sex grooming and found 97 potential suspects. However, “very few” faced justice.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) director of major investigations, Steve Noonan, commented: “The mayoral review raised many questions about the actions of those involved in Operation Augusta.
“We have now decided it is necessary to investigate the individual conduct of these three former GMP officers who were all involved in either supervising or setting the direction of Operation Augusta.
“Though the content of the mayoral review has been analysed as part of our decision to begin an investigation, it was not a specific investigation into the actions of the officers involved.
“We now need to establish and examine all the available evidence.”
Continued failure to protect young girls
Following the release of the review in January 2020, Tim Dieppe commented: “There is now abundant evidence that many council and local authority employees and police knew about this abuse but failed to protect young children from systematic abuse. These people need to be held to account so that lessons can be learned to prevent this from continuing. The government’s answer shows that so far there is no central effort to address this, and meanwhile, more girls continue to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.”
In fact, The Independent reported earlier this year that almost 19,000 children were sexually grooming in England in 2019. More recently, it has been estimated that there could be as many as 500,000 survivors of grooming gangs in the UK over the last 40 years.
Yet the government remains ignorant of exactly how many victims of grooming gangs there have been over the years and remains in the dark about how these grooming gangs operate.
As Home Secretary in 2018, Sajid Javid MP commissioned a review into the characteristics of street grooming gangs, describing the scandal as “one of the most shocking state failure that I can remember.” This review however has not been published and Freedom of Information requests about the findings have been denied. Is the government also scared of being labelled racist by publishing the report?
How many more girls will be sacrificed?
Although this investigation is a step in the right direction, more must be done to hold officials to account on grooming gangs. Why have inquiries not been held into grooming gangs and child sexual exploitation in Bradford, Oldham, Rochdale, Oxford, Bristol, Telford…?
Former GMP detective Maggie Oliver previously called for senior officers responsible for failing to prosecute suspects and protect young girls: “I want the law changing so there can be retrospective accountability for people whose duty it is to protect the vulnerable.
“It’s knowing and deliberate neglection of duty … [those who were involved] should be charged with gross misconduct – it’s criminal – where is the accountability?”
Tim Dieppe commented at the time: “It is still shocking the extent to which the police and others have turned a blind eye to grooming gang activities because of a politically correct fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic. It shows just how evil political correctness can be. Young girls are repeatedly raped and abused by older men in ‘plain sight’ of authorities who shy away from tackling it because they are too politically correct.
“As long as we can’t talk about it, this abuse will continue. We need to be open about the ethnicities and religious convictions of the perpetrators and the victims –so that we can properly understand the patterns of abuse and motivations of those involved and put a stop to this horrific abuse. How many more young girls will be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness?”