A veteran Social Worker has accused police in Rochdale of putting a limit on the number of child sex offenders they are willing to arrest. Sara Rowbotham who was responsible for gathering evidence against Asian grooming gangs in 2012 said the police “cherry picked” suspects, leaving others free to continue offending.
She said the result was that dozens of paedophiles were free to walk the streets unchallenged. The social worker blamed lack of manpower and resources for the failure to fully investigate the abuse.
Rowbotham said: “It’s very shocking but there are dozens of child sex offenders still on the streets because they put a cap on the number of people they would arrest,’ she said.
“In the end this was just a tiny proportion of the number of offenders raping and abusing children and they were allowed to escape. But not only did they cap the number of offenders but they also put a ceiling on the number of victims they would interview and proceed with.”
So far nine Asian men have been jailed for a total of 77 years but Rowbotham believes the problem has not been eradicated. She said: “It’s still going on. The same perpetrators are still out there because police put a ceiling on the number of arrests. The actual number of suspects is huge but the number of victims is equally large.
“They are still having to deal with the trauma of that on a day-to-day basis knowing no-one has ever been brought to justice for abusing them.”
Almost all the suspects are Muslim men, and they used alcohol and drugs to control the girls, some of whom were as young as 13. Although the problem had been known for years the Police and Council had been unwilling to act for fear of being accused of racism.
In some cases the victims themselves were arrested, to avoid causing community tensions. The problem of inaction was compounded by a wall of silence from the Muslim community, most of whom preferred to turn a blind eye to offending than risk assisting in jailing a member of their community.
The Police Federation, which is effectively the Trade Union for rank and file officers, defended the actions of their members. Ian Hanson from the Manchester branch said: “It is grossly unfair that both the organisation and our police officer members collectively are singled out and blamed by some for what is a failure of the whole system.
“We expect officers to build relationships with victims in the most difficult circumstances imaginable in a fraction of the time where often the education and social care system has failed to do so. Only when we understand the whole problem and the challenges involved will society start to deal with those issues.”
The Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner has pledged that all allegations will be investigated fully.