By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 15 July 2022 • 15:43
Sexual exploitation of teenagers - Image Mortion Pictures/Shutterstock.com
The angry heated debate at Wednesday night’s meeting came to light on Friday, July 15 when Conservative Councillors bemoaned the lost opportunity to fully investigate and learn from the grooming that mirrored that in Rotherham some years before.
The argument started after the Labour group in the Council tabled a countermotion to that of the Failsworth Independent Group (FIP) who had called for a letter to be sent to the Home Secretary and Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government requesting a “fully independent and broad ranging’ public inquiry ‘as soon as is practically possible.”
Labour tabled an amendment that removed the public enquiry, which after a fiery debate was adopted and approved.
Not only did the opposition councillors voice their displeasure but so too did the packed public gallery, who often drowned out the discussion with their shouts and banging on the plastic partitions separating the seats.
The motion was the third call for a public enquiry, but the first tabled since the long-awaited assurance review was published in June. In that review, experts Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway, found that Oldham had failed to protect these young girls between 2011 and 2014.
The Newsam Ridgeway report found no evidence of a widespread cover-up but found that strategies did not translate into risk prevention on the ground.
At the heart of the disagreement is the view that the review into sexual exploitation in Oldham was too limited, too narrow and did not cover nearly enough cases resulting in many questions remaining unanswered. This the opposition said necessitate the need for an independent public enquiry, however, Labour said that it was time to move on from talking about the issue and to dedicate resources to investigate individual cases and to seek convictions.
The Labour amendment also included providing support for the victims through organisations such as the Sexual Assault Referral Centre and Keeping Our Girls safe. It did however retain the need for a cross-party steering group to oversee the work to make reparations.
Council leader Amanda Chadderton, who moved the amendment, said: “Since the publication of that report two weeks ago I have spoken to a number of victims, they came forward and rang me. The victims that were referenced in that report but also the victims of other CSE in Oldham.
“And speaking to those people and how it has affected their lives. I move the amendment, and that’s not because we don’t understand the level of concern Oldhamers feel about this issue, but it is because we want to take action.
“We want to see improvements for children and young people and see the people that committed these disgusting crimes brought to justice.
“The original motion doesn’t explain what benefit at all a public inquiry would have, either providing improvements to our assurance for today’s children and young people or seeking justice for historic victims of abuse.”
According to the Labour leader, the Home Office had been briefed twice by the council, including after the publication of the report, which raised “no concerns about the conduct or outcome of the review.”
The question of grooming and sexual exploitation is an emotive one with everyone having their own view on how to deal with the fallout. That resulted in the councillor screaming match that saw the calls for a public enquiry in sexual exploitation in Oldham fail.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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