Criticism of controversial Oldham CSE report piles high

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Following the public release of a controversial ‘Child Sexual Exploitation Assurance Review’ on 20th June, 2022 and an ugly display of public disorder by protesters at an Extraordinary Council Meeting a week later, Liberal Democrat councillors in Oldham have said that the report into historic safeguarding and CSE in the Borough is just the start of a rigorous investigation into what went wrong for ‘Sophie’, a core stakeholder and survivor of child sex abuse perpetrated against her in 2006 and a protracted police cover-up ever since, and other children who have suffered as a result of police and council failings.

They have submitted 50 questions to Council’s Chief Executive, Harry Catherall, Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, who commissioned and ‘owns’ the report, and its authors, Gary Newsam and Malcolm Ridgway.

Cllr Mark Kenyon (pictured above), Liberal Democrat councillor for Grotton, Springhead & Lees, said: “The report raises more questions than it answers. It was intended to give us all assurance that CSE was and is being targeted effectively. While these questions are outstanding, none of us can have that assurance.”

Questions being asked include: Why the report’s authors weren’t allowed free access to GMP records, why only half of the 104 people identified in the report were interviewed, why Sophie’s aunt was advised to keep quiet about her concerns about Sophie “dating” much older men, why Sophie’s case was closed by social care even after they knew of her terrible ordeal, and how are intelligence reports into CSE being shared throughout GMP considering the failure of their new IT system (iOPS).

As well as asking who made these decisions, and if disciplinary actions has now followed, they also ask how procedures have changed to make sure these failures cannot happen again.

Liberal Democrat Councillor, Sam Al-Hamdani, who represents the same ward as Cllr Kenyon (Saddleworth West and Lees) concluded: “We think it is important to know the answers to all of these questions promptly, without evasion and in full. Only by doing that will the Council, GMP and the Mayor begin to show that they have understood what went wrong. Responsibility for these failures is a terrible weight. However, this is insignificant when compared to the suffering that these failures have caused.”

Cllr Al-Hamdani posted on a local newspaper Facebook page last weekend that he did not support a further independent investigation. An about turn from a speech and vote he made during a debate in the Council chamber in March, 2022. At which he pressed for Home Office intervention. He has been asked to clarify that juxtaposition.

The Liberal Democrat Leader, Cllr Howard Sykes, spoke powerfully at the Extraordinary Meeting to the obvious weaknesses and failings of the Newsam and Ridgway report. As did the stand-in Tory Leader, Cllr Pam Byrne.

Yesterday, ‘Sophie’ told ITV Granada and their viewers that the CSE report “wasn’t worth the paper it was written on”. She has also confirmed, earlier today, that written public questions she has submitted, and that were held over at the Extraordinary Meeting, have still not been answered by Malcolm Newsam, to whom they were addressed.

The Labour administration, led by their Leader, Cllr Amanda Chadderton, and senior paid officers, have resolutely defended the report, praising its authors and are adamant that no further investigation or inquiry into the report’s failings is either needed or will take place. A posture that looks more and more untenable with each passing day. 

During an Adjournment Debate in Parliament last week, brought by Oldham West and Royton MP, Jim McMahon (read in full here), the Home Office Minister for Safeguarding, Rachel McLean MP, bluntly attacked those who had the temerity to criticise Messrs Newsam and Ridgway, a folly upon which she may well reflect in the coming months as the shortcomings in their latest efforts are relentlessly exposed. 

Page last updated Tuesday 5th July, 2022 at 2310hrs

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Picture credits: Oldham Council

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Published by Neil Wilby

Former Johnston Press area managing director. Justice campaigner. Freelance investigative journalist.

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