Today the BBC carries a truly frightening story (read the original here) of the failure by Greater Manchester police and social services to protect children who were being raped, sexually exploited and abused.
Fifteen year old Victoria Agoglia, who was in the care of social services because her mother had died, was sexually abused, injected with heroin and then killed by being given a heroin overdose in 2003. Her Local Authority carers were aware of her being subjected to “multiple threats, sexual assaults and serious sexual exploitation” and had been told that she was being “injected with heroin by an older Asian man [but] no action was taken by the police or social care”. Nobody has been found guilty of her death but it triggered a brief investigation of local child sex exploitation. Police identified at least 97 suspects but “very few” faced justice and several are known to have gone on to abuse and rape others. The perpetrators were “predominantly Asian men”. The police operation was “prematurely closed down” after senior officers decided to “remove resources”.
Empty assurances then
The BBC report that at her inquest the coroner considered that this 15 year old child had “a propensity ‘to provide sexual favours” and, in spite of the obvious gross failure to protect this girl, considered that it was “absolutely essential” that the public had confidence in “the quality of care and support afforded to children cared for within the child protection system”. Confidence in what? As the report’s authors comment: “The authorities knew that many [children] were being subjected to the most profound abuse and exploitation but did not protect them from the perpetrators,”. The report’s authors were not allowed access to the coroners files.
Empty assurances now
Manchester City Council’s (MCC) chief executive Joanne Roney is reported as saying that some social work at the time “fell far below the high standards we now expect”, adding: “We want to reassure people that, more than a decade and a half of learning later, we are in a much better place.” “We recognise that some of the social work practice and management oversight around 15 years ago fell far below the high standards we now expect”.
Slow learners at Manchester’s social services?
It seems that it has indeed taken 15 years of ‘learning’ for MCC to ‘recognise’ that allowing child rape and other sexual abuse and exploitation is not good child care. Only now, after 15 years, do they appear to have acknowledged how they failed the 57 child victims. Victoria’s grandmother Joan Agoglia said the publication of the report made her feel “wonderful as I’ve been fighting for this all my life, it seems”, welcoming this late acknowledgement.
And slow learners at the Greater Manchester Police (GMP)?
The report seems to have stung the GMP enough to grind into a little action. Assistant Chief Constable Hussain is reported as saying that a major incident team has been established and was “reviewing all the information available”, which had led to one man being arrested and another interviewed under caution in connection with Victoria Agoglia’s death in September 2019. The men have since been released. During the original investigation, it emerged that one suspect vehicle uncovered in the initial investigation was linked to a GMP officer. Apparently the police and social services are now working together “much more closely and effectively to identify young people at risk of exploitation, put safeguarding measures in place to protect them and pursue perpetrators”. The Manchester detective, Maggie Oliver, who resigned over the failure of the investigation following Victoria’s death is clear that the same problems continue – girls are still being sexually abused and exploited by older men and the police and social services are still failing to protect them.
Would you feel confident now?
Would you trust Manchester Social Services and Manchester police to investigate and act to protect your child or you? I wouldn’t if I were you.
Victoria’s grandmother says that: “I told them and I told them, Vicky came down time and time again to me… and she told me herself what these men had done to her.” If she had had access to ONRECORD’s evidence gathering app at the time, had kept records of what Victoria was telling her and had supported her account with what evidence she could in audio recordings, photos, videos, the workers and the police could not possibly have ignored the evidence of the crimes that were being committed. It was the written records made by Sara Rowbotham in Rochdale that were used by the police in that case to prosecute the perpetrators. The secure, online chronology ONRECORD creates, much more easily than written records, is a powerful weapon in defence of such victims. Confronted with it the authorities will immediately see the potential for their shame, disgrace and scandal if they do not act effectively and they will provide the evidence to force agencies to take action.
Dr George Hibbert