Review into allegations of child sexual exploitation in Oldham expected in middle of 2021

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

A REVIEW into allegations of child sexual exploitation in Oldham is now expected to publish its findings in the ‘middle of 2021’, the region’s deputy mayor has confirmed.

In a letter to Oldham Council’s chief executive, Baroness Beverley Hughes said the findings of the independent review would not be published for months.

Baroness Beverley Hughes (Pic: Greater Manchester Combined Authority)

She was writing in response to a motion raised at the November meeting of the full council, proposed by Conservative and Independent councillors John Hudson and Brian Hobin.

The motion had raised concerns that interviews taking place as part of the review, which was commissioned by Mayor Andy Burnham at the request of Council Leader Sean Fielding and the chair of the Oldham safeguarding partnership, ‘have not been robust’.

It also stated that the testimony recorded ‘does not accurately reflect the discussions held, investigators have failed to attend pre-arranged interviews, whilst others, including victims with relevant information, are still waiting to be contacted’.

In a letter read out at the December meeting of the full council, Baroness Hughes, whose deputy Mayor portfolio includes policing, said: “That review is ongoing and at present looks set to report in the middle of 2021.

“I note the council motion refers to allegations about the interviews conducted by the review team and the accuracy of notes provided to interviewees.

“I would like to make clear that notes of interviews are written by a member of business support staff for the GMCA and provided to interviewees to check and amend where necessary.

“This process has been followed for all interviewees. If any interviewee has concerns about the notes of their interview I would encourage them to contact the review team to discuss.

“I also know that concerns have been raised about the review team failing to attend interviews.

“To my knowledge there has been one instance where an interviewee has been offered a provisional date for an interview which could not go ahead for legal reasons and more could have been done to keep the interviewee informed on progress.

“If anyone has information which may be relevant to the review I would support the council resolution to ask that this be submitted by January 15.”

Oldham Town Centre (Pic: Vincent Cole)

Malcolm Newsam, a former commissioner for social care in Rotherham and Gary Ridgway, a former Detective Superintendent of Cambridgeshire Police, have been appointed to head up the review team.

They were the duo behind the blistering report into Operation Augusta, published at the beginning of the year, which looked at the handling of child sexual exploitation by the police and social services in Manchester.

The allegations in Oldham the review is investigating chiefly concern ‘shisha bars, taxi companies and children’s homes’, according to the terms of reference.

It was confirmed the review is examining evidence from as far back as 2006 and as recently as 2017.

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