MAGGIE OLIVER: Vulnerable girls were sacrificed in the name of political correctness… The grim catalogue of child grooming and abuse scandals is one of the darkest episodes in modern Britain
The grim catalogue of child grooming and abuse scandals represents one of the darkest episodes in the story of modern Britain.
The scale of the vicious exploitation by predatory gangs across the North and the Midlands was shocking enough.
Maggie Oliver is a former Detective Constable with the Greater Manchester Police
But what made this saga even more outrageous was the paralysing inaction of the authorities against the criminal abusers; partly because of prejudice against the victims, who were mainly white working-class girls, partly because of cultural sensitivities about the backgrounds of the perpetrators, who were mainly British-Pakistani men.
The very institutions that should have been protecting the innocent were failing to expose their persecutors. In effect, the vulnerable were sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
The grim catalogue of child grooming and abuse scandals represents one of the darkest episodes in the story of modern Britain (file image)
Terror about accusations of racism, combined with the official determination to celebrate diversity, meant that some gangs could operate with impunity. This cowardly attitude displayed by much of the political establishment was captured in the words of Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP for Rotherham, where over 1,400 girls were estimated to have been raped or assaulted. When asked why he turned a blind eye to these horrors in his constituency, he said sheepishly, ‘I didn’t want to rock the multi-cultural boat.’
The cover-up went on for years. A conspiracy of silence was upheld by the police, local councils, child protection agencies and social services departments.
But as a detective in the Greater Manchester Police, I was not prepared to join in this shameful denial of reality once I had heard the stories of some of the tragic victims. They lived in the Lancashire town of Rochdale where such grooming was rife. I knew where my duty lay – on the side of the abused girls. I decided that I had to speak out on their behalf in the quest to achieve justice.
It was a move that cost me my career and even my family home. But I knew I had taken the right step. At last, as the survivors were given a voice, the truth began to come out and the groomers began to go on trial.
So I cannot deny that, more than a decade after I was forced to resign my post in the Greater Manchester Police, I felt a sense of vindication this week at the announcement by the Government of a new strategy to tackle abuse and grooming.
Launched in Rochdale by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, this plan features a new task force, supported by the National Crime Agency and specialist officers, as well as a new statutory duty on anyone who works with children to report any suspicions of abuse.
In addition, involvement with a grooming gang will now be an aggravating factor in sentencing, while a new helpline for whistleblowers will be established.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman sit in a meeting of the Grooming Gang Taskforce, during a visit to the NSPCC offices in Leeds, Monday
But just as important was the explicit acknowledgement by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary of the ethnic identity of some grooming gangs. As Mrs Braverman put it: ‘We have to be he honest about the fact that some of these gangs have been overwhelmingly British-Pakistani males.’ She is absolutely right.
Major problems in our society cannot be properly addressed if they are concealed behind walls of obfuscation and deceit.
Child abuse is, of course, perpetrated by people from all different parts of society, but it is not bigotry to point out that the majority of grooming culprits in these northern towns and cities are men of Pakistani heritage.
There is nothing moral about refusing to act against certain minorities out of a warped concern not to undermine the narrative of multi-cultural success.
The real immorality lies in neglecting vulnerable children and abandoning the concept of equality before the law in order to discriminate in favour of one ethnic group. That is not the road to harmony in a diverse society. On the contrary, it is a toxic path to division and resentment. Yet it is tragic that it has taken the Government so long to face up publicly to reality. If the truth had been addressed years ago, then thousands of girls might have been spared so much misery.
In her response to the Government, the Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper declared: ‘You must never allow any kind of sensitivities about race or ethnicity to prevent action on child sexual exploitation.’
Television programme, ‘Three Girls’, depicted a dramatised version of the events surrounding the Rochdale child sex abuse ring
But that is exactly what did happen in places like Rotherham, Telford, Oldham, Derby, Oxford – and my own home patch of Rochdale. Repeatedly I heard the most harrowing testimony from girls who had been plied with alcohol and drugs, and raped by multiple partners. Yet when they went to the authorities they were either ignored or blamed for the abuse they had suffered.
There was a large element of class prejudice, where the white working-class girls were seen as irresponsible and feckless, deserving of their fate. Ever since I first blew the whistle on the Rochdale scandal, I have been fighting for these girls’ rights.
So I only hope that yesterday’s launch represented a genuine commitment to tackle the scourge of abuse and exploitation, for I know only too well through the Foundation that I established to help survivors of abuse that these crimes are still going on.
Every month, we are contacted by hundreds of girls whose lives are being wrecked. After all the scandals, all the inquiries, all the political promises, these gangs continue to cast their shadow over our streets.
To be rid of that menace, we must take up the mantle of moral guardianship – and at the heart of the mission must be real honesty about the predators.
- Maggie Oliver is a former Detective Constable with the Greater Manchester Police. She now runs The Maggie Oliver Foundation to help survivors of abuse.
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