A report has been published this morning summarising the findings of an independent review of allegations of child sexual abuse and Oldham Council and Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) failure to properly investigate. Former GMP detective Maggie Oliver says: “Another day, yet another report about the failures of a police force to protect the most vulnerable in our society, even when there is irrefutable evidence to prosecute offenders and safeguard children.” These independent reviews are absolutely vital in uncovering this truth, since the institutions themselves continue to insist that they have changed their working practices, but from our extensive work with victims and survivors today, this is far too often still not the case.
Firstly, I would personally like to thank Gary Ridgway and Malcolm Newsam for their enormous efforts during this review. Because of the journey I’ve travelled since 2011 and the lies and corruption I have seen, I do not trust easily. However, during both this and the Operation Augusta Review, I have learnt to trust these two individuals. I have found them to be of great integrity, working tirelessly to uncover the truth despite this often being an uphill battle with all sorts of ‘road blocks’ being put in their way to stop them from uncovering the true facts. They both have my utmost thanks, gratitude and respect. My thanks too must go to Andy Burnham for ordering these reviews, and for standing his ground and insisting the truth is made public in the face of repeated opposition to ensure that didn’t happen. Whilst the review team have earned my trust, GMP sadly still have a long way to go. Yet again this report clearly evidences catastrophic failings by the force and their repeated attempts to cover up and hide these failings both from the victims and from the public they serve; that is extremely worrying.
As mentioned, my involvement here was in supporting Sophie and fighting alongside her to ensure her story was heard. The review shows that GMP and their PSB repeatedly and deliberately hid the truth in relation to her case and its incompetent investigation for over 15 years. Oldham Council repeatedly stated they had contacted Sophie in relation to the review, and yet that was not true. It was only because I was already supporting Sophie that she contacted me and my Foundation in desperation. I immediately approached the review team direct, and this is the only reason her story has been exposed. It would otherwise have remained hidden again, despite Sophie’s 15 year battle to get to the truth. This shows the depths to which the authorities will still go in their attempts to silence victims and cover up failings and wrongdoings by the police.
We have started working with GMP and are keen to work with other forces nationally, to improve victim care and develop best practice when investigating these life-destroying crimes. We have actually been engaging with senior officers in GMP for the last six months and we had seen some positive signs and a desire to change. However, in the past 6 months alone, we have referred 33 serious cases to the force due to concerns in investigations and as yet, only one has been resolved satisfactorily, despite promises and assertions to the contrary. This is extremely disappointing and leads us to question their desire or indeed commitment to actually change their working practices, despite promises by the new Chief Constable.
It is even more concerning when combined with the fact that after almost two years GMP are still in special measures and are classed as a failing force. We appreciate that it takes time to change entrenched attitudes and cultures within such a large organisation, but time is of the essence. Every moment of delay and avoidance is another life ruined. I often say that words and promises are very easy, but we have yet to see any evidence of the massive changes needed in working practices. All too often the recommendations in these reviews are ignored and therein lies another problem.
We sincerely hope that GMP will act on the recommendation made in the report to continue to work alongside The Maggie Oliver Foundation to put victims and survivors at the heart of this traumatic process. Having said this, it is absolutely vital that we maintain our complete independence so we can hold them to account when these standards are not met. I encourage any victims and survivors affected to reach out to The Maggie Oliver Foundation for support, whether that be emotional or legal advocacy.
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