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OLDHAM: CSE review publication delayed until January

OLDHAM: CSE review publication delayed until January

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham speaking at the Mayor\'s question time event in Oldham. Photo: GMCA.

A report looking into allegations of child sexual exploitation in Oldham now won’t be published until the new year after encountering an ‘unforeseen delay’.

The review, which is investigating the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the borough, was first commissioned in November 2019 by the council and safeguarding board.

It is being carried out by Malcolm Newsam, a former commissioner for social care in Rotherham, and Gary Ridgway, a former Detective Superintendent of Cambridgeshire Police, who were behind the blistering report into Operation Augusta in Manchester.

However Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has stated that the report will now not be published until ‘early in the New Year’ after it encountered an ‘unforeseen delay’.

Responding to a question at a Mayor’s question time event, hosted in Oldham, about when the ‘long overdue’ report would come out, he said they had been ‘disrupted by the pandemic’.

He added it was a ‘painful but essential process’.

In a further statement he said: “The review team have undertaken many interviews, some of which have been face-to-face but which were delayed due to the pandemic.

“The review team has now produced a draft report which, given the seriousness of the allegations and nature of the review, has to be legally checked.

“We had intended for the final report to be published this month or in early December.

“However an issue has arisen in the last two weeks which requires QC (Queens Counsel) advice, which is currently being done.

“There is also a requirement for everyone referenced in the report to have the opportunity to comment on the sections that refer to them and that process cannot be completed until we have received the legal advice.

“Therefore, given the need for this legal opinion and following advice from victim support services who advise to avoid publishing a report in mid-December, which may negatively impact on victims, particularly over the Christmas period, we have taken the decision to delay publication until early in the New Year.”

He added that they now intended that the report be published in the week beginning January 24.

Previously Deputy Mayor Baroness Beverley Hughes had confirmed a first draft would be ready by September.

However Liberal Democrat Councillor Sam Al-Hamdani warned that delaying the report further risked undermining the trust with the public and victims.

Coun Al-Hamdani said: “The most important people in the whole process are the survivors of violence, and I absolutely respect their wishes not to see the report published at this time of year.

“What I then question is why we had been told previously that the report would be released now? That should already have been considered, and we should not have been told the report would be released before the end of the year.

“The same applies to the QC’s advice. This should have been allowed for in the process, and should have been planned for.”

“This is not the first time that we have been given a date for the publication of the report, and then down the line, it has shifted.”

He added: “One of the most terrible aspects of this form of abuse is that it breaks down people’s trust, and it is vital that promises are kept, to stop that trust from breaking down further.”

The remit of the review is to examine historical allegations relating to child sexual exploitation in Oldham and to consider whether the council and its partners provided an appropriate response to protect children.

The allegations 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.

Council leader Arooj Shah has previously said that she has ‘no doubt’ that the team would find areas where ‘work in the past has fallen short’.

Words: Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter

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