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Catalogue of missed opportunities in Torbay child sexploitation investigation

By Herald Express  |  Posted: March 01, 2013

  • flashback: How the Herald Express reported the child sexploitation case

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TEENAGE girls as young as 13 were victims of widespread sexploitation after being plied with drink and drugs, a new report reveals.

The serious case review into Operation Mansfield — which a court was told involved 139 children — has been published this week by the Torbay Safeguarding Children Board into the abuse of 'substantial numbers' of young girls between 2006 and 2011.

The executive summary criticises professionals who failed to pick up early warning signs. And it catalogues a list of missed opportunities and numerous disclosures which were not acted upon to stop the sexual abuse as far back as 2008.

Health professionals were more focussed on giving out contraception than spotting the sexploitation of vulnerable young girls, the report says.

The Youth Offending Team and Probation Service, who were in touch with the offenders, are criticised for focusing on offences and failing to pick-up early warning signs.

The report says: "Early intervention may have reduced the offenders' progression to becoming abusers."

The criminal justice system also failed to protect the teenage girls, the report says.

"There was one significant missed opportunity to respond to a disclosure from a 13-year-old girl that she was being sexually exploited.

"The lack of action by police and children's social care was influenced by her unwillingness to make a statement to the police."

The report reveals it was this 13-year-old girl's disclosures which became the basis for starting Operation Mansfield. But that was not until July 2010 at a presentation locally by a member of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children to the Missing Persons Forum meeting, following the appointment of a new police Missing Person Intervention Manager in 2009.

It was at that multi-agency meeting which concerns were first raised an Operation Mansfield began.

The report says 12 girls were initially identified as potential victims. It is understood eventually up to 40 girls were involved.

One young white male was prosecuted and another was cautioned. Action against others was not taken because of a lack of evidence.

One offender was identified as being a 'possible risk to young girls' as far back as 2008.

The authorities were aware the offender they call Subject Two was having sex with an underage girl and taking her travelling in a stolen car.

Despite that, the report says 'his potential for sexual exploitation was not identified' and his contact with young girls was assessed to be due to his immaturity.

But the report says: "Subject One, the main offender, was never considered to be a risk due to his age, despite the numerous disclosures about his contact with young girls'.

It paints a picture of a large number of young, vulnerable girls falling prey to an 'unorganised and opportunistic' group of young white males in their late teens and early 20s.

This was an 'unorganised and opportunistic abuse of vulnerable young girls for the gratification of a relatively small group of young males, linked to the supply and misuse of drugs'.

The report says there was no evidence of prostitution or organised paedophilia as in the high-profile cases in Rochdale, Derbyshire and Rotherham.

But it says: "There are also many similarities between the cases regarding the vulnerabilities of the victims and the responses of professionals."

It adds the girls were 'being abused by a small group of males, only two of whom had any substantial evidence against them'.

It goes on: "They were sexually abusing the girls mainly for their own purposes.

"The abuse was facilitated by the supply of alcohol and drugs to the victims."

The report paints a picture of health professionals who were more focussed on reducing Torbay's high teenage pregnancy rate than on spotting vulnerable young girls.

The report states that:

"Professionals from all agencies were lacking in their knowledge and understanding of sexual exploitation."

The police investigation was not at a 'sufficient level of seniority given that the police were the lead agency'.

The report criticises the focus on preventing pregnancy. It says assessments of the young girls were not always recorded and 'failed to consider fully the girls' emotional and intellectual maturity. Decisions were being made on the level of the treatment proposed, that is, contraception only'.

It adds: "Neither health professionals when consulted for contraception and sexual health advice nor other professionals provided effective assessments of vulnerability."

The Operation Mansfield investigation itself is also criticised: "The strategic management of the complex investigation would have benefited from members having a better understanding of their role and inter-relationships between all organisations involved."

It adds that in future: "Disclosures of sexual exploitation/abuse must be dealt with as a serious crime in line with procedures. The victim must be fully supported in order to reduce their future exposure to risk.

"There is a need for professionals to take disclosures seriously and to put in place support so the young person starts to feel protected, and possibly willing to support disclosure."

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22 comments

  • omnivore23  |  March 05 2013, 1:02PM

    Your point being?

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  • MisterDonut  |  March 05 2013, 12:58PM

    Oh come on Omni, the Herald are running that story based purely on his age to appeal to othet old aged pensioners as if to say 'look, I can still do it' - only he can't, and he didn't.

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  • omnivore23  |  March 05 2013, 12:44PM

    OK - so the website filter doesn't allow a link to one it's own stories - never mind - it's the one where Donut mocks Ranulph Feinnes on the basis of his age.

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  • omnivore23  |  March 05 2013, 12:42PM

    Neither. Trying to form an opinion based on facts, rather than selectively interpreting facts based on my opinion. You should try it some time. By the way - if you want to see what Mr Donut offers as an alternative to "immature left wing responses" see here: http://tinyurl.com/bf***tg Nice.

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  • MisterDonut  |  March 05 2013, 11:16AM

    Are you speaking from insider knowledge of the Herald omni or just guessing as usual. I'm sure that none of your left wing posts have been removed for censorship reasons.

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  • omnivore23  |  March 05 2013, 10:49AM

    No Donut - more lies - what I said was: "Seriously - if you really believe that the Herald is pursuing a left-wing agenda and censoring posts that disagree with it's view, you need to see a doctor."

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  • MisterDonut  |  March 05 2013, 10:34AM

    Typical immature left wing response, if you are slightly to the right or centre ground you are a Daily Mail reader who needs to see a psychiatrist. No wonder the left have become a laughing stock and have chosen refuge in the BBC and other public sector hotbeds.

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  • omnivore23  |  March 05 2013, 9:55AM

    Ah - so it's because Saville has an OBE and was a mason that This is South Devon didn't cover the story too much. ..........and there was me thinking it was because it wasn't a local story. I wonder if this is also why they are not carrying regular bulletins about Hugo Chavez - what with the Northcliffe media group being such a hotbed of socialist conspiracies and all that.? Personally I had to stop reading the daily mail I got so sick of it's constant sucking up to the public sector. Seriously - if you really believe that the Herald is pursuing a left-wing agenda and censoring posts that disagree with it's view, you need to see a doctor. ....though not on the NHS, obviously.

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  • Blondeee  |  March 03 2013, 7:32PM

    Isn't this about under resourced services in this area who are given hard targets to hit by people who do not understand the complexity of lives and issues which occur? Take a target as referred to in the article - reducing teenage pregnancy, a public sector worker as compliant as they have to be, works hard to reduce this, and once it is hit, job done. Local services are under resourced, and perhaps mis resourced. I imagine Probation workers are in post because they actually want to make a difference to people's lives. There is no creativity, flexibility or empowerment to do the work most public sector workers want to do, but wouldn't it make sense if they could and just get on with the core part of the job. If those at the top fully understood what IS actually going on in our local communities and allocating resource appropriately, letting people do what needs to be done to actually help people instead of working towards poorly planned targets, this case may not have esculated to the level it did.

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  • Caligula  |  March 03 2013, 10:39AM

    uquip Your absolutely right its called propaganda, for instance this case has had more than its fair share of coverage but the Jimmy Savile case has had hardly any coverage in the Herald maybe because savile was a freemason with an OBE. Pingu007 I wasn't arguing I was just stating facts.

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