Leeds & West Yorkshire

Chances 'lost' to break Huddersfield child abuse sex ring

Alley in Huddersfield Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Last year 20 men were jailed for their part in the abuse in Huddersfield, which took place between 2004 and 2011

Opportunities to expose a grooming gang which raped and abused girls as young as 11 in Huddersfield were lost, an independent review has found.

It said Kirklees Children's Services had "sufficient evidence" at the time to conclude two girls were being exploited but no action was taken.

Last year 20 men were jailed for their part in the abuse, which took place between 2004 and 2011.

Kirklees Council said it was "truly sorry" the girls were not protected.

Image caption Twenty men were convicted of more than 120 offences against 15 girls

The review was commissioned by the council and carried out by Dr Mark Peel, of the Leeds Safeguarding Children Partnership, via a review of social work case files.

He found that of 22 women who gave evidence during a series of trial at Leeds Crown Court last year, 15 were known to children's services at the time.

In his report, he said while the majority of girls received "services of an acceptable standard" there was "direct intelligence" of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in two cases.

In one girl's file (Girl 4) it was noted in 2007, when she was 16, "she is being exploited into prostitution, she hangs around with a number of men who take her money", adding, "she is a very promiscuous girl".

In relation to another girl (Girl 8) it was noted "[she] is getting into cars with Asian men for the purpose of drugs, alcohol and sexual exploitation" and she was spending time with two other girls, one of whom also featured in the recent trials.

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Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The abuse took place in and around Huddersfield between 2004 and 2011

Dr Peel said: "It is my contention that children's services officers knew at the time that these young women most likely to have been engaged in inappropriate, exploitative and illegal sexual activity to the extent that they had sufficient evidence to conclude these vulnerable young women were at risk of 'serious harm'.

"In both instances, however, it would appear that, other than recording this information, no subsequent preventative safeguarding action was taken, and that thus an opportunity to break the CSE ring operating in Kirklees, and protect these girls directly and others more generally, was lost."

However, he said from a review of the information held in relation to the other girls there was insufficient evidence, given the lack of understanding of child sexual exploitation at the time, for any professional worker to conclude the girls were at risk.

Responding to the report, Kirklees Council director of children's services Mel Meggs said: "Dr Peel has been clear that the vast majority of cases were handled in line with the policy and practice of the time.

"However, the studies of 'Girl 4' and 'Girl 8' show that, historically, professionals did not always spot the signs of exploitation and did not always respond appropriately to concerns.

"We are truly sorry that these two girls were not protected in the right way."

Council chief executive Jacqui Gedman said as a result of a greater understanding of CSE "we can be confident that the progress of recent years would lead to very different actions today".

A separate report by the National Working Group CSE Response Unit into the council's current practice found the authority had a "passionate workforce [with] a determination to tackle CSE and other forms of exploitation".

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