Sex abuse scandal victims may sue

Victims of a child sex ring may take legal action against the authorities for failing to protect them after a damning report laid bare the extent of their failings.

Social workers, police and prosecutors "missed opportunities" to stop a child exploitation ring abusing young girls, a report into the scandal revealed.

Deficiencies in the way children's social care responded to the victims' needs in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, were caused by "patchy" training of frontline staff, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its 29-page report into child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The review comes four months after nine Asian men were convicted of the systematic grooming and sexual abuse of white girls in Heywood and Rochdale. The trial resulted in a national debate over the role of gangs of largely Asian men in grooming white girls.

The picture which emerges from the report is one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, who were being targeted for sexual abuse, being written off by those in authority who believed the girls were "making their own choices" and "engaging in consensual sexual activity".

In reality, girls were being raped and often violently beaten. The judge who sentenced the nine men said they treated their victims "as though they were worthless and beyond any respect".

Richard Scorer, a solicitor for some of the abused girls, said it was "very likely" they would be taking legal action against the authorities for failing to protect them. Mr Scorer said the report was "very, very damning", and highlighted "a whole catalogue of failings, mainly by Rochdale social services".

He said: "I think based on the evidence in this report it is very likely that we will be going forward with legal action. It is fairly unusual for social services to be sued. It does happen but it is fairly unusual."

Asked whether the girls have been able to rebuild their lives and come to terms with what happened to them, Mr Scorer said: "Of course they are deeply traumatised and distressed by these events, which have lasted over many years."

Rochdale Council said it had used the review's findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements.