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Whistleblower Maggie Oliver's response to today's findings of independent review into failings to investigate child sex abuse in Rochdale

TODAY the findings of a six-year independent review into the investigation, prosecution and

prevention of child sexual abuse in Rochdale has published its findings.

Former Detective, mum-of-four Maggie Oliver, resigned from Greater Manchester Police in 2012 to publicly reveal the extent of the police failings and deliberate cover up of these failings in these cases.

In 2017, following the airing of BBC documentary The Betrayed Girls, and after hearing Maggie

speaking out in the media, Mayor for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Andy Burnham, ordered an independent review of the investigation into the handling of child abuse historically in a number of Greater Manchester boroughs, including Rochdale.

Former Detective, Maggie, who resigned from Greater Manchester Police in 2012 to expose failings and cover ups by police investigating these crimes, was instrumental in the making of both The Betrayed Girls documentary and the BBC drama Three Girls, working on them for a period of over four years to bring these stories into the public arena.

Today, independent reviewers Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway, publish their findings.

Maggie said: “After over 10 years fighting for the truth of this botched case to be exposed, today is a day filled with so many mixed emotions for me. However, I will remain eternally grateful to Malcolm and Gary for doing such a thorough job in officially exposing the extent to which Greater Manchester Police (GMP) failed hundreds of vulnerable young girls, and the force’s deliberate attempts to hide this truth and cover up their failings. I am also grateful on a personal level as their report confirms the truth of what I have been saying for over 12 years, and that is so important to my own recovery.

Speaking out though has cost me dearly, but I still have no regrets about the course of action I took, despite what the former Chief Constable Peter Fahy said about me, implying I had been making it all up. The decision to eventually resign when he would not listen or take action cost me dearly, and in many ways I will never recover from that.

I am extremely thankful that the Rochdale survivors have, once again, had it formally acknowledged that their treatment was wrong on so many levels, although for many this is too little too late.

My overriding emotion though is one of anger. I am angry that not one senior officer or official has ever been held individually responsible for these failures, lies and cover ups. Despite this being institutional corruption, the report makes it clear that INDIVIDUALS were responsible for the decisions that were made. These decisions to not resource the investigations properly, were mostly because senior officers were not willing to dedicate resources to them. Repeatedly failing to prioritise them, to protect children and prosecute known abusers, whilst all the time publicly pretending they were doing a brilliant job!! I knew then that was a lie, as it was also with Op Augusta (GMP’s operation investigating child sexual exploitation in Manchester in the early 2000s), and yet it has taken over 10 years to finally have this publicly and officially acknowledged.

In 2022, I took three of the Rochdale survivors to receive historic apologies from GMP in relation to their treatment, but the apology came from the then relatively new Chief Constable on behalf of the institution, not from the actual individuals who had discarded these children, and made dreadful decisions that ruined countless lives and in my opinion are guilty of gross criminal neglect and misconduct in a public office. I want them to be held accountable for this criminal neglect.

To get these apologies, and for this review to expose the truth, has taken years of battling an

institution which exists to protect itself at all costs. Years of no replies to requests for information, of pages of redacted documents and when responses are finally produced, of denials and “lost” evidence, and frankly gaslighting. Not just in the case of Rochdale but in the review by the same team into the investigation of child abuse in Manchester (Operation Augusta) and Oldham too.

The battle started for me personally when I was still a serving police officer and I was unable to get anyone to listen to me about the failings and corruption I was witnessing. I spoke to officials at every level but was ignored at all turns. It took The Betrayed Girls documentary being seen by Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, and him hearing me on the radio, for someone to finally take action and commission these independent reviews, and I am very grateful to Andy for that. But this was after seven years of me banging on every door, speaking to anyone who would listen and on any platform available. I was never going to give up. This was too important.

It seems some sort of odd fate that this report is published the week we have finally seen

meaningful action from the Government in relation to the Post Office Horizon scandal since there are so many parallels between that case and this: “ordinary” people being criminalised and silenced, institutional cover ups and corruption in an effort to protect the brand whatever the cost to affected individuals, refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing by the institution, over a decade of legal battles, redacted documents and withheld evidence, the demonisation of individuals fighting for truth and justice like I have, and finally a public inquiry taking years and costing countless millions of tax payers’ money. Once Again, it has taken a TV show to force those in power to take action. And, again, whilst I’m sure the affected sub postmasters are in some way grateful for the action now being taken, so much has been lost along the way with so many lives ruined. And I would say it is exactly the same with this Rochdale case. In many ways I could actually be ‘Mr Bates’ to be honest!

I also need to be realistic about what this report will mean. I am sure we will be told that “lessons have been learned”, that such failings by police officers are a thing of the past and that investigations into child abuse are now much improved, that just last year several perpetrators of this abuse were convicted. And, of course, any paedophiles off our streets is good news. But why has it taken so long? Almost 20 years – I would say that those prosecutions would never have happened without my persistence as well as public outrage and a media spotlight.

I am also not assured that lessons have been learned. However, I would point out that the Terms of Reference for this report ended in 2013, and I can absolutely, categorically say that through our work today at The Maggie Oliver Foundation, we see on a daily basis that victims and survivors of sexual offences are still routinely treated badly or even inhumanely, still not believed, still judged, still dismissed when they report these horrendous crimes. Just ask any of the 4,000 plus victims we have fought alongside over the past five years. We see lines of investigation not followed and have to advocate relentlessly for those desperate survivors seeking our help. In the worst of cases, we see those who dare to complain about their investigations or treatment by police forces subjected to police intimidation, false arrests or often being themselves criminalised.

Just last year, we were instrumental in Andy Burnham’s commissioning of The Baird Inquiry into GMP’s treatment of women in custody and use of illegal strip searches, due to publish in the not too distant future. These are current horrific failures, not those of the past! We have supported several women to tell their stories to the Inquiry, all of whom had reported crimes themselves to GMP as victims, most having also made complaints about their investigations, before they themselves were arrested, threatened and we would say even tortured.

We have seen that the police complaints procedure is totally and utterly unfit for purpose. Any

complaints which are not upheld by the GMP Professional Standards Department can then complain to the supposedly independent review body, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

What actually happens though is that these complaints to the IOPC are forwarded directly to the force in question to “mark their own homework”. The IOPC then has to rely on the force voluntarily refer themselves back to the IOPC for review, which of course assumes that all police forces have this level of honesty and integrity......sadly, not something I am able to believe given all of the evidence I have seen over the last twenty years. It is just another way to silence vulnerable victims, hoping that by making the process arduous enough, the victim will be forced to back down and ensure the institution and its ‘reputation’ survives unscathed, while those victims are left silenced and traumatised by their abuse and their inhumane treatment by the “system”.

Going back to gratitude, I’m eternally grateful to the survivors who came with me to share their experiences with the review team. They should not have had to revisit these traumatic experiences time and time again to finally see the truth told of how they were failed, many, many years after their abuse ended.

I truly hope their bravery gives others the strength to come forward and fight for their own justice. It is only by shining a bright light into the dark, hidden corners of all of these scandals and cover ups that we can find the real truth and so demand the changes so desperately needed to our so-called criminal justice system, which as the public know all too well is currently unfit for purpose.

Any victims or survivors who are affected by this news today reach out to us at The Maggie Oliver Foundation for support, whether that be emotional, or legal advocacy. And you will be heard, treated with empathy, compassion, and supported in your journey towards justice and recovery."

Alan Collins, a lawyer in the sex abuse team at Hugh James Solicitors, who represents victims of sexual abuse, said: “A raft of reports and investigations into child sexual exploitation have been released over the past few years, yet they are sadly doing very little to tackle what is effectively a growing trend.

A horrifying lack of accountability serves to perpetuate the operation of grooming gangs and as such, attempts at child protection continue to fail.

It is not uncommon for an individual low down the responsibility ladder to be identified, yet when it comes to management and supervision, it seems borderline impossible. We begin to fear that the system is designed that way.

The Victims Bill, which is currently before Parliament, is supposed to give victims greater purchase with the justice system, yet it expressly excludes accountability.

This report reminds us that it is important that failings in child protection be exposed, however, to stand a chance at protecting vulnerable youngsters, accountability must be properly and concretely addressed by the government. Until then, we are sadly far from where we need to be regarding child protection.”


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