Call to boost Rochdale child sex abuse inquiry

Simon Danczuk
Image caption Simon Danczuk fears the grooming investigation is losing momentum

An MP is calling on police to speed up its probe into child sex grooming allegations in Greater Manchester.

Officers are carrying out criminal investigations into six cases while dealing with 42 alleged victims of sexual abuse in Rochdale.

Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, said "whistle blowers" told him that there was "no urgency" in the investigation.

But Greater Manchester Police said dealing with child abuse was a priority.

The investigation was launched last May in the wake of the convictions of nine men who groomed and abused children in Rochdale and Heywood.

Mr Danczuk said: "People involved in the investigation have been coming to my office saying there is a sense that momentum is being lost.

"It is not just a case of the resources but whether the officers have the right skills.

"Some of these allegations date back to 2008, when some were ignored and it is quite understandable that they are reluctant to come forward."

He added he is writing to Greater Manchester's Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy. He said: "I am seeking assurances there are enough officers with the right kind of skills and aptitude to interview all of the alleged victims".

As well as the 42 alleged victims, police are also examining 34 other names referred to them - but it is not clear how many of these are potential victims.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: "Rumours about child sexual exploitation (CSE) operations being discontinued are not only inaccurate, but also undermine the confidence of both victims and the wider community.

"CSE is now the force priority and we currently have more detectives working in this area than we do combating gun crime."

Mr Heywood also stated: "The investigation itself is at an extremely sensitive stage and it has taken many painstaking months for officers to gain the trust and understanding of potential victims and their families."

Image caption ACC Steven Heywood: Investigation "at sensitive stage"

He said there had been "an initial pool of 42 girls" approached by the force, "but the vast majority did not want to pursue a criminal complaint".

Mr Heywood added: "There is now a core of six victims we are continuing to work with and the investigation is ongoing.

"However, the rest of the girls remain very much part of the investigation and the multi-agency support for them continues regardless of whether there are prosecutions or not.

'Multiple risks'

"People need to understand that investigating allegations of CSE is not perhaps as straightforward as other inquiries.

"As a result, whenever we are given an individual's name, either as a potential victim or perpetrator, we cannot just knock on their door and start to formally interview them.

"There are multiple risks with every approach made to a potential victim and, in some cases, there is sometimes the risk of domestic violence after a police approach."

He added: "To be clear on this, criticism that we have failed to provide the current level of support and understanding, while balancing the needs of a sensitive ongoing investigation, is completely wide of the mark and potentially seriously damaging to victim's confidence."

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