‘Fake news’ platform raises false hope for CSE survivors

Earlier this week a relatively new, but as yet unverified, Twitter account made this announcement to their near 9,000 followers: 

Screenshot 2022-08-04 at 18.08.04

The post has been subsequently commented upon, liked and shared thousands of times.

It produced a flurry of activity from the author of this article, Neil Wilby, as given his extensive network of political and paid officer contacts across both Oldham, and the wider Greater Manchester Region, it would have been a profound shock if such an inquiry had been instituted without him picking up news of it ahead of a relatively new social media entity, with little or no foothold in the area and, seemingly, no accredited journalists associated with it.

The outcome of those initial journalistic enquiries was that no-one in authority, including the Leader’s office and press office at Oldham Council,  knew anything at all about what NewsHubUK was claiming as a new CSE inquiry. 

Further enquiries with both the Home Office and Attorney General’s office produced this official statement from a Government spokesperson this afternoon:

“The abuse suffered by the victims in Oldham is truly sickening. We are determined to end the abhorrent exploitation of children and young people and to tackle the criminal gangs that prey on them.

“The Home Secretary has not commissioned a local review into Oldham. However, she has commissioned Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to investigate how police forces across England and Wales handle cases of group-based child sexual exploitation.”

The Government spokesperson has also helpfully added this Background:

  • Through our Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy, we are driving improvements in how police and local authorities respond to these horrific crimes, leaving no stone unturned to identify and prosecute offending and support victims.
  • The findings of the recently commissioned HMICFRS inspection will allow us to robustly address any concerns which emerge about current practice.
  • The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was set up in 2015 to investigate how effectively institutions have been in protecting children from abuse. The government has recently published its response to the Inquiry’s Organised Networks report, and we will carefully consider all recommendations in its final report, which we expect in October.
  • The Home Office is funding the police’s Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme, which identifies and shares best practice across forces, and the College of Policing’s training for senior policing leaders which ensures they have a strong understanding of the complexity and sensitivity of these cases.
  • We are providing new tools and strengthening those already available for front-line practitioners to use, including Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Sexual Risk Orders which allow agencies to manage the risks posed by sex offenders. 
  • We are funding regional child sexual abuse and exploitation analysts in every policing region, as well as the Tackling Organised Exploitation programme, which is developing a system to bring together intelligence so that police across the country can better identify and tackle organised exploitation.
  • And we fund the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse to improve the frontline professional response to this crime, delivering tailored training to social workers, health professionals, police, and safeguarding leads in schools. 
  • We published an updated Child Exploitation Disruption Toolkit last month, which will support police and local agencies in working together to put these new tools to use in disrupting child sexual abuse in their areas. The Toolkit promotes innovative approaches to using new and existing powers and will encourage multi-agency working to ensure more effective disruption of offenders. 
  • The Home Office has recently launched its Support for Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Fund (SVSCSA) for 2022-2025. Through this, the Home Office will award grant funding to voluntary sector organisations in England and Wales providing nationally accessible support to victims and survivors of child sexual abuse. The Fund will award up to £1.5 million in 2022/23.

A spokesperson for Oldham Council added: “We are aware of misinformation circulating online, and have confirmed with the Government that no independent inquiry has been launched into historic child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Oldham.”

When asked by Neil Wilby to explain the discrepancy in their own reporting and the official Government position, NewsHubUK responded in a Twitter post that has since been deleted:

“Evidently, you do seem a bit of an uneducated twat”. 

Which is ironic, given that NewsHubUK has had several attempts to spell ‘inquiry’ but hasn’t managed to quite get it right yet. 

The impact on CSE survivors of the ups and downs of this ‘fake news’ broadcast is likely to have been traumatic. One well known campaigning survivor was ecstatic at the news that a further independent inquiry was in the making. The despondency that follows such a let down could so easily have been avoided if NewsHubUK had fact-checked what has obviously now been exposed as a wild guess.

Shortly after publication of this article, NewsHubUK posted that the source of their claim of a new CSE inquiry was leaked Government documents. They promised sight of them via email, but those materials are yet to appear. 

In another unedifying Twitter exchange, NewsHubUK abused, then blocked, a senior Oldham Council press officer. Not the actions, one might very fairly say, of a reputable, trusted news outlet. 

Page last updated Friday 5th August, 2022 at 0955hrs

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Picture credits: Twitter

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2022. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby Media, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Published by Neil Wilby

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

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