Leeds & West Yorkshire

Police: 'Unforgivable' we didn't believe abused Keighley girl

Keighley
Image caption The girl, identified only as Autumn, was abused over 13 months from 2011 to 2012 in Keighley

A police force has apologised "wholeheartedly" for its failings after a girl who reported being raped in 2011 was abused for a further year.

A damning report has already criticised care agencies for not protecting the young girl, identified as Autumn.

Det Supt Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police, said it accepted the findings, adding that it was "unforgivable" the girl was not believed by officers.

A gang of 12 men had abused the girl over 13 months in Keighley.

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The men who sexually exploited the vulnerable teenage girl received jail sentences of up to 20 years in February.

From the age of 13 she was made to have sex in various locations in Keighley, including an underground car park and a church graveyard.

'Girl failed'

Information identifying the girl as being at risk from harm was "not acted on", said the serious case review.

Mr Wallen said: "We have failed this young girl, as she was at the time, on a number of levels."

She was reported missing more than 70 times and the force now understood the links between girls going missing and sexual grooming, he said.

At the time officers had been taken away from investigating her disappearance to patrol areas for burglary as the force was "driven by targets", he explained.

Mr Wallen hoped the victim had received "some comfort" from the force's "very significant investigation" that eventually led to the men's imprisonment.

There had been an "enormous cultural overhaul" of the force's treatment of vulnerability and sexual exploitation and "offending on the scale we've seen could not happen again now", he added.

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