Disgraced Mayor makes further false claims over efficacy of ‘Assurance Review’

Burnham at Extraordinary Meeting

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has written an open letter to Oldham residents in response to widespread criticism of a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Assurance Review, commissioned and paid for by him, which was published on 20th June, 2022.

In his letter, the Mayor says he wants to ‘make sure people in Oldham know what is being done to follow up on the findings of the report and secure justice for those victims whom, to date, have been let down.’

He further highlights the launch of Operation Sherwood by Greater Manchester Police, which, he says, is an investigation solely focused on historic child sexual exploitation in the Oldham Metropolitan Borough.

The noted ‘cover-up’ specialist, whose grotesque oversight failings have led to GMP being stuck in special measures for over 19 months (read more here), and whose appearance at an Extraordinary Meeting of Oldham Council on 27th June, 2022, caused loud booing, jeering and chants of ‘shame on you’ by protesters, says he wants to assure the town that he takes these matters ‘seriously’ and has supported a £2.3m investment into the CSE Unit which, it is claimed, has over one hundred dedicated officers. He does not make clear that the quoted number of officers covers the entire Region, not just Oldham where a maximum of 21 are deployed, including admin and support staff.

In conclusion, the Mayor claims that Operation Sherwood is ‘the first step in facing up to the findings of the Review’. Few if any, given his history of abject policing failures, over the past five years, will give that any credence, whatsoever.

The bold, typical, and palpably false, assertion that the Assurance Review was ‘thorough’ is much more likely to inflame tensions in Oldham, than assuage them. It is a nonsensical claim, but one so typical of an organisation to whom lying and deceit, top down, is almost second nature.

The full text of the Burnham open letter is reproduced below:

Child Sexual Exploitation: Operation Sherwood

Dear Resident

You will know that, last month, an independent review was published into past child safeguarding practices in Oldham.

It was commissioned in 2019 following a request from the then Leader of the Council and the Local Safeguarding Children Board’s Chair. I am very grateful to the independent reviewers, Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway, for the thorough way in which they undertook their work.

The purpose of this letter is to make sure people in Oldham know what is being done to follow up on the findings of the report and secure justice for those victims who, to date, have been let down.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) have now launched Operation Sherwood, an Oldham specific investigation into past child sexual exploitation in the borough with a dedicated team of police officers and support staff drawn from GMP’s specialist CSE Unit. Chief Constable Stephen Watson has made a public commitment that any identified perpetrator, regardless of the passage of time, will be pursued relentlessly.

The Operation Sherwood team have already begun their work and will liaise closely with the Oldham policing district led by Chief Superintendent Chris Bowen, Oldham Council and other local stakeholders. As well as reviewing cases in the review, Operation Sherwood will also explore any further lines of enquiry which result from their investigations. No stone will be left unturned. Should any further victims be identified, the team will endeavour to explore these leads and pursue any potential criminal aspects which previously may not have been adequately investigated.

It is important that local people know that they are able to contact Operation Sherwood direct or, if they prefer, via one of the organisations supporting victims. Here are the various options:

• Operation Sherwood can be contacted on 0161 856 2124 between 7am and 3pm Monday to Friday, or at the e-mail address operationsherwood@gmp.police.uk.

• Oldham Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub can be contacted on 0161 770 1045 between 8.40am and 4.40pm Monday to Friday.

• St. Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre (SARC) can be contacted on 0161 276 6525. You can ask them not to share any information with the police if preferred.

• Greater Manchester Victim Support Helpline can be contacted on 0161 200 1950 or visit their website at http://www.gmvictims.org.uk where you can get further information and request a call back.

• The Maggie Oliver Foundation is an organisation whose mission is to empower survivors of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation. The Foundation has provided support to some of the victims referred to in the assurance review. They can be contacted via e-mail help@themaggieoliverfoundation.com or through their website: https://www.themaggieoliverfoundation.com/self-referral-form

Greater Manchester Police has also launched a dedicated Operation Sherwood webpage https://www.gmp.police.uk/police-forces/greater-manchester-police/areas/greater-manchester-force-content/au/about-us/operation-sherwood/, which also contains these contact details and further information about the operation.

If you wish to report that you have been a victim of a more recent act of abuse, or believe someone else has or is at risk of CSE, please contact GMP via 101 or use the chat facility Contact us | Greater Manchester Police (gmp.police.uk) .

In addition, Oldham Council has launched its own victims’ strategy, working alongside victim support, the sexual assault referral centre, mental health services and GMP. Part of this strategy will involve convening a victim support advisory group, led by survivors of CSE and chaired by local organisation Keeping Our Girls Safe (KOGS), to ensure the voices of these women shapes their work.

Finally, I want to assure you of how seriously we take these matters. With our support, GMP has invested £2.3m in the CSE Unit which has 106 dedicated officers. It is conducting several investigations into non-recent crimes not thoroughly investigated at the time and has achieved significant results. For example, several major investigations in Rochdale, including Operation Lytton, have led to charges against eight individuals covering 82 offences and a trial is set for May 2023. Operation Green Jacket, instituted after the first review in Manchester, has so far led to 21 individuals being arrested.

Operation Sherwood represents one crucial concrete step in facing up to the findings of the Oldham review. I will give my strong support to it and the pursuit of those who have committed the appalling crimes we have all heard about.

Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester

Absent from this letter is the fact that there have been valid objections to the officer placed in charge of Operation Sherwood, Assistant Chief Constable Sarah Jackson (read more here). Curtly dismissed by the chief constable without addressing any of the concerns that were raised. His message to CSE survivors is, essentially, ‘I’ll pick who I like and if she’s not to your taste, tough’.

There is also no mention of how, in what form and by whom, either disciplinary or criminal proceedings are to be taken against miscreant officers whose offences (but not their names) were identified in the Assurance Review (read more here). The well-established Burnham modus operandum is, of course, to allow GMP to brush those type of matters under the carpet. 

Last, but not least, the Mayor and Chief Constable Watson have had draft copies of the Assurance Review for over a year. Why did they wait so long to announce the new CSE investigation?


Page last updated Monday 25th July, 2022 at 0740hrs

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Picture credits: GMCA

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Published by Neil Wilby

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

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