Child sexual abuse: Ex-detective criticises failures in protective agencies

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Maggie OliverImage source, GMP
Image caption,
Maggie Oliver says a "complete overhaul of the system" is needed to stop child grooming

A whistleblowing former detective has said there are still "monumental failures" in child protective agencies.

Maggie Oliver said an inquiry's report, which warned police and councils failed to properly investigate grooming gangs, "hit the nail on the head".

The inquiry examined abuse in St Helens and other areas in England and Wales.

Ms Oliver, who resigned from Greater Manchester Police over the way Rochdale grooming cases were handled, said the system needed a "complete overhaul".

In its 18th report, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) examined abuse in St Helens, Tower Hamlets in London, Swansea, Durham, Bristol and Warwickshire.

'Trauma training'

It said there were "extensive failures" in how authorities tackled child exploitation, with police often unable to provide evidence on the extent of the problem.

A charity in St Helens, Catch 22, told the inquiry that child protection professionals were still describing children as "promiscuous" and "putting themselves at risk".

IICSA found that officials often assumed incorrectly that child grooming gangs were "on the wane".

It said in some cases authorities might be potentially downplaying the scale of abuse as they "don't want to be labelled another Rochdale or Rotherham".

Ms Oliver said the report "hit the nail on the head" but added there was no obligation for agencies to implement the recommendations.

"That is why these reports fall down in my opinion," she told BBC North West Tonight.

The former detective launched The Maggie Oliver Foundation to support victims of grooming gangs in 2019.

She said: "There are still monumental failures in all the protective agencies - the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and social services."

"I would say there are undoubtedly not enough police officers who are trained in trauma and victim care."

The report also found that data such as the ethnicity of abusers and victims was not collected and could have helped identify offenders.

"By not building that picture we are allowing the perpetrators to go on and abuse others," Ms Oliver said.

In response to the inquiry's report, Merseyside Police said the force was "committed to protecting all children from abuse".

"As police we are doing all we can to pursue and prosecute criminals who exploit and abuse young people," said Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley.

"But, as the inquiry has found, more must be done to stop this abuse from happening in the first place."

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