Irene Ivison : The UK’s Grooming Gangs: Lessons Unlearned | Women’s Rights

**Troubling Revelations in Rotherham and Rochdale**

In the town of Rotherham in the United Kingdom, a disturbing report by former senior social worker Alexis Jay uncovered a horrifying truth. From 1997 to 2013, an estimated 1,400 children fell victim to sexual abuse, mainly at the hands of Pakistani-British men. Shockingly, council staff and others knew about the abuse but chose to ignore it, fearing accusations of racism.

**Lessons Not Learned**

Despite the damning revelations of the report, official responses were disappointingly predictable. The phrase “lessons will be learned” was once again echoed, but with little hope for real change. This tragic situation was not isolated to Rotherham alone. In nearby Rochdale, Greater Manchester, similar atrocities were unfolding, with girls being abused across the UK.

**A Cycle of Inaction**

A recent report highlighted the failure of the National Health Service crisis intervention team in Rochdale to act on referrals concerning 260 victims of child sexual exploitation. The report, covering the period from 2004 to 2013, identified 96 individuals posing a serious risk to children, yet none have faced prosecution. Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson pledged a “day of reckoning,” but as of now, no arrests have been made.

**Failure to Protect Vulnerable Girls**

The review exposed a systemic failure across state agencies to safeguard hundreds of vulnerable girls from organised sexual abusers. Authorities responded with empty promises, leaving victims like Amber, who was abused by a grooming gang in Rochdale at just 14 years old, feeling betrayed by those meant to protect them.

**Seeking Justice**

Amber, along with other victims, fought for years to hold the police and Crown Prosecution Service accountable for their mistreatment. In April 2022, they were finally awarded damages and an apology from the Greater Manchester Police chief constable. However, the CPS has yet to acknowledge the harm caused to victims like Amber, whose trauma was exacerbated by the very authorities she turned to for help.

**A Call for Change**

The harrowing experiences of victims like Amber shed light on the urgent need for reform within the criminal justice system. The recent report into the mishandling of grooming gangs in Rochdale marks a step in the right direction. It is essential that the phrase “lessons learned” translates into tangible actions to prevent such atrocities from recurring.

**Author’s Perspective**

The author’s personal account underscores the deep-rooted issues within the system and the resilience of survivors seeking justice. The hope now lies in meaningful change and accountability to ensure the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals moving forward.

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