Police and social workers investigating child sex exploitation in Manchester knew children were suffering “the most profound abuse… but did not protect them”, a report has found.
After a child’s death in 2003, police identified at least 97 suspects, but “very few” faced justice, the independent review found.
The police operation was “prematurely closed down” after senior officers decided to “remove resources”, it said.
Police said “authorities fell short”.
Greater Manchester Police’s (GMP) Operation Augusta was set up to tackle “the sexual exploitation throughout a wide area of a significant number of children in the care system by predominantly Asian men”, the report said.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who commissioned the report as a result of the 2017 BBC documentary The Betrayed Girls, focussed on the death in 2003 of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia and GMP’s subsequent investigation.
He said Victoria’s death had “exposed a network of paedophiles brazenly abusing young people in care… [who] should have been brought to justice but, appallingly, most escaped and some were left to reoffend”.
He added there was now “a zero tolerance approach to child sexual exploitation of any kind”.
Victoria’s grandmother Joan Agoglia said the publication of the report made her feel “wonderful as I’ve been fighting for this all my life, it seems”.
GMP Chief Constable Ian Hopkins apologised for the police failures which allowed the abuse of children in care to continue.
“On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, I want to apologise to all those vulnerable children who were let down in 2004 by police not thoroughly investigating the offences that had been committed against them.
“I want to say that I am personally disgusted that these children were not cared for and by the awful abuse that they suffered.”
GMP is reviewing all the cases covered in the report and has made a voluntary referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Read more: Manchester sex abuse: Exploited children ‘were not protected’