A senior police officer with the Greater Manchester Police in the United Kingdom has blamed a target-driven culture and political correctness for the lack of police response to the abuse suffered by young girls at the hands of Asian sex gangs in Rochdale.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, retired Detective Inspector Merial Buglass said she had had “many sleepless nights” knowing that the abuse was ongoing but lacking permission from her superiors to investigate further. She says that the culture within the force was driven by meeting Home Office targets, and also that senior management were more concerned about political correctness than stopping the abuse.
“Management appeared not to be interested, they were only interested in targets, it was a completely target-driven culture,” she said. “The main priorities were acquisitive crime – robbery, burglary and car theft. Money was being piled into [the investigation of] these crimes.
“They didn’t want to class the abuse as Asian on white girls. They didn’t want to cause a fuss. I took the view that this wasn’t about racism, it was about child abuse – but political correctness and cultural sensitivities were important to management.”
In April 2010, whilst in her role as head of Rochdale Police’s public protection unit, Ms Buglass compiled a report detailing how predominantly white children, some as young as 12, were being groomed by gangs of Asian men as sex-slaves, and were violently abused. It has since emerged that some of the girls who were attacked in Rochdale between 1997 and 2013 were murdered at the hands of the men. The report included the details of 35 children, ten perpetrators and a further 40 suspects, and contained a plea for more resources to be granted to further investigate the heinous crimes.
The day after the report was filed, Buglass met with Superintendent Martin Greenhalgh. During the meeting, she alleges he essentially told her “If I choose to investigate it, we will,” and that she replied “This is huge, there are massive threats and it will come back to bite us if you don’t do something!”
Yet she was told to focus on domestic crime instead because it “featured on performance targets.” Frustrated, Buglass took the report higher and was promised resources, but it took a further eight months, during which she was aware that children were being abused, before those resources were forthcoming “and then [the investigation] was taken away from me”.
Greater Manchester Police yesterday released a statement conceding that it “recognised that it could have done more to support the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale”. It continued “Since 2010 we have moved considerable resources into child protection and the investigation of sexual exploitation. We have learned from what happened.” The force claims that it came under pressure from the Home Office five years ago to cut acquisitive crimes such as car theft and burglary, although the targets were removed in 2012.
Commenting on the scandal, Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said “The scandal of how police and other agencies failed children being raped on an industrial scale is getting worse every week. Police leadership have completely lost touch with ordinary people’s values.”
In 2012, nine men from Oldham and Rochdale were convicted of running a child sexual exploitation ring and were sentenced to between four and 19 years for their parts in the crimes. However, it is now clear that many responsible have still not be brought to justice. The police now say that they are planning to arrest hundreds of suspects in a “day of reckoning.”
Ms Buglass told reporters “I had many sleepless nights over this. We tried our best but the fact is the police failed those girls. I could not have been more vocal about the threats and risks… but I was appalled at the response.”