An independent report commissioned by the Major of London, Andy Burnham has stated that Greater Manchester Police’s ( GMP) investigation, Operation Augusta failed to protect children who the Police and Social Services knew were suffering “ the most profound abuse”.
In 2003 a 15 year old girl Victoria Agoglia died whilst in the care of Manchester City Council (MCC). The BBC documentary, “The Betrayed Girls” which aired in 2017 focused on her death and also the investigation of the GMP. It was following this investigation that Andy Burnham commission the report.
The report, which was prepared by childcare expert Malcolm Newsam and former Detective Superintendent Gary Ridgeway, has found that following Victoria’s death the police identified at least 57 children as “potential victims” and up to 97 “persons of interest”.
The report found the “operation was ultimately prematurely closed down… before it could complete its work a decision that was driven by a desire to remove the resources rather than by having a sound understanding that all lines of inquiry had been successfully completed or exhausted.
The authorities knew that many children were being subjected to the most profound abuse and exploitation but did not protect them from the perpetrators,”
In preparation of the report a sample of cases from Operation Augusta were reviewed and in each case it was found to be impossible to offer any assurance that the alleged offences were “ appropriately addressed by either the GMP or MCC.”
Sadly, the report also found that “eight men identified in the investigation had gone on to commit serious sexual offences, including rapes of girls aged both under and over 16, after the operation was ended and that one suspect vehicle uncovered in the initial investigation was linked to a GMP officer, who was later dismissed from the force.”
The report also states that Victoria’s social workers “were aware of her being subjected to multiple threats, sexual assaults and serious sexual exploitation and had been told that she was being injected with heroin by an older Asian man”. However, no action was taken by Victoria’s carers or the police.
The report further said that Victoria died” having been administered an overdose but the men who exploited her have never been brought to justice”,
At her inquest the coroner “recognised the multiple concerns” and that “Victoria had a propensity to provide sexual favours which significantly underplays the coercion and control she was subject to.”
The report questions the fact that more was not done when the coroner also stated that it was “absolutely essential that the public had confidence in the quality of care and support afforded to children cared for within the child protection system.”
At the time she died, Manchester Social Services said they had done everything possible to keep her safe. As part of Operation Augusta in 2004, a 50-year-old man admitted two offences of injecting Victoria with heroin and was jailed. He was not convicted of the charge of manslaughter.
The report concluded:
“Victoria’s family and the other exploited children must have their allegations fully investigated and the Mayor, GMP and MCC must look at how the people who appeared to present a risk to children in 2004 can now be brought to justice.
Any future approach needed to address the exploitation of a significant number of children as recognised by Operation Augusta. Anything less would risk repeating the mistakes of the past and not give the survivors the justice they deserve.”
Victoria’s death had exposed a network of pedophiles brazenly abusing young people in care who should have been brought to justice but, appallingly, most escaped and some were left to reoffend”.
GMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins made the following statement:
“On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, I want to apologise to all those vulnerable children who were let down in 2004 by police not thoroughly investigating the offences that had been committed against them.
I want to say that I am personally disgusted that these children were not cared for and by the awful abuse that they suffered.”
It is understood that the GMP are reviewing all the cases covered in the report and has made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Joanne Roney Manchester City Council’s Chief executive has said:
“Some social work at the time fell far below the high standards we now expect. We want to reassure people that, more than a decade and a half of learning later, we are in a much better place.
All the social workers and managers involved in the cases were no longer working for the council and four had been referred to the Health and Care Professions Council for possible disciplinary action.”
Ms Roney also said that the “ MCC and GMP were now working together much more closely and effectively to identify young people at risk of exploitation, put safeguarding measures in place to protect them and pursue perpetrators.”
Since the release of the report a major incident team had been established and is in the process of “reviewing all the information available”. GMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins has confirmed that “the new investigation into the crimes, named Operation Green Jacket, had identified 53 “potential victims, 48 of whom were in care between 2004 and 2005 and had viable lines of inquiry in 38 cases.”
If you have been a victim of child abuse and would like to speak to one of our specialist abuse lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases. Our abuse team can be contacted on 0800 9555 094 or 0330 300 1103.