Press Release from Former Detective and Whistleblower, Maggie Oliver.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced that no senior officers will be held accountable for their involvement in the closing down of Operation Augusta.
To give you a background on Operation Augusta, Victoria Agoglia, 15, died in 2003, two months after reporting that an older man had sexually assaulted her and injected her with heroin. The 41-year-old was held on suspicion of the rape and indecent assault of Victoria, causing the prostitution of a girl under 16 and the supply of Class A and B drugs. At the time of Victoria’s death at least 97 potential suspects were identified as part of Operation Augusta but “very few” faced justice, an independent review found.
Operation Augusta was a police and social services investigation into child sexual exploitation in South Manchester.
It was launched following the death of 15 year old Victoria Agoglia, who had been in the care of Manchester City Council since she was eight. Victoria died in 2003 after being injected with heroin by a 50 year old man at his home. During her time in care police and social services were aware that Victoria was exposed to sexual exploitation by adult men, and shortly before her death she had told social and drugs workers that she was being injected with heroin.
The first phase of Operation Augusta was launched by Greater Manchester Police in February 2004. It was initially conducted as a scoping exercise. The investigation identified 25 potential victims of child sexual exploitation. All were girls aged between 11 and 17, and all were in the care of Manchester City Council.
The investigation also identified 97 potential ‘persons of interest’ thought to be involved in some way in the sexual exploitation of the victims. Intelligence suggested that these were predominantly Muslim men working in the restaurant industry.
Following the scoping phase, Operation Augusta moved to a full investigative phase in June 2004. The investigation was run on a multi-agency basis with Manchester City Council social services. By the time the investigation concluded at least 57 children had been identified as potential victims.
In April 2005, senior police notified the investigation team that permanent staff were not being allocated to Operation Augusta and that the operation would conclude on 1 July 2005.
Operation Augusta ultimately led to seven men being warned, charged or convicted in relation to child abduction and sex offences. One further man had been identified as an illegal immigrant.
The January 2020 report
In July 2017, the BBC broadcast The Betrayed Girls, a documentary about child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester. This led the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to commission child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway to conduct an independent review of the response to child sexual exploitation across Greater Manchester.
Part one of the review involved examining Operation Augusta and the decision to close it. A report on the review’s findings was published in January 2020: see Part One: An assurance review of Operation Augusta.
The report criticised the initial police and social services response to Victoria Agoglia’s case. It concluded that although the authorities knew her exposure to sexual exploitation, statutory child protection procedures were not deployed to protect her. The report also found no evidence that the risk to Victoria’s life posed by the heroin injections was “appropriately escalated”.
The report concluded that the scoping phase of Operation Augusta had delivered its objectives successfully, and that detectives had “built up a compelling picture of the systematic exploitation of looked after children in the care system in the city of Manchester”.
The report also said that there was much to commend in the investigative phase, particularly the decision to allocate a major incident team and to develop a joint protocol with social services.
However, there were “fundamental flaws in how Operation Augusta was resourced”, which had a negative impact on the investigation. The decision to close Operation Augusta was driven “by the decision by senior officers to remove the resources from the investigation rather than a sound understanding that all lines of enquiry had been successfully completed or exhausted”.
The review examined a sample of 25 children identified as potential victims Operation Augusta. It concluded that there was “a significant probability” that 16 of those children were being sexually exploited, but it could not offer “any assurance that this was appropriately addressed by either Greater Manchester Police or the responsible local authority”.
In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain acknowledged that the authorities had “fallen short” of doing all they could to protect the victims identified by Operation Augusta. He said that Greater Manchester Police had referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to determine whether there are any conduct matters which require investigation.
It has also launched Operation Green Jacket, which is reviewing historic cases of child sexual exploitation (including that of Victoria Agoglia). Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has indicated that the investigation is working with 53 potential victims.
Joanne Roney, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, also apologised that not enough had been done to protect the children involved in Operation Augusta.
A group of Greater Manchester MPs has written to Andy Burnham asking further questions on Operation Augusta, and questioning whether criminal, misconduct or negligence charges will be brought against individuals from the police or social services.
In response to a recent parliamentary question on Operation Augusta, the Government said that it intends to publish a “comprehensive national strategy to tackle all forms of child sexual exploitation in early 2020” (Offences Against Children: Criminal Investigation: Written Question HL431).
An investigation into grooming gangs dropped in 2005 resumed after Greater Manchester Police faced criticism over its handling of Victoria’s case.
Press Release from Maggie Oliver.
Following a two-year investigation, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has announced that no senior officers will be held accountable for their involvement in the closing down of Operation Augusta.
Operation Augusta was a 2004 investigation into child sexual abuse and exploitation in south Manchester. In 2017, Mayor for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Andy Burnham, ordered an independent review of the investigation and the decision to close it. The report, published in January 2020, criticised the police, stating that there were “fundamental flaws in how Operation Augusta was resourced” which had a negative impact on the investigation. The report also stated that the decision to close Operation Augusta was driven by “the decision by senior officers to remove resources from the investigation rather than a sound understanding that all lines of inquiry had been successfully completed or exhausted” and that the review panel could not offer “any assurance that [evidence of sexual exploitation of children] was appropriately addressed by either Greater Manchester Police or the responsible local authority”.
Former GMP detective Maggie Oliver says:
“This announcement today comes as no surprise to me whatsoever, nor is it any surprise that once again, not one Senior Police Officer is to be held accountable for the life destroying decision to close down Operation Augusta, at a time when it was a live investigation with almost 3 dozen victims and 100 abusers on the HOLMES database awaiting arrest. In my personal opinion, that decision is simply misconduct in a public office, a criminal offence for which a Senior Officer should be held legally responsible. The only surprise is that it’s taken the IOPC two years to make this announcement.