Greater Manchester Police has more senior officers fighting child sexual exploitation than gun crime

 

Britain's second largest police force is deploying more senior officers to fight child sexual exploitation than it is against violent gun crime.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP), which carried out the investigation into on-street grooming in Rochdale resulting in the jailing of nine men last year, said the offence had become its "number one priority".

Speaking at a conference of local authority leaders in Rochdale, GMP assistant chief constable Steve Heywood said: "Expect a lot more convictions. I have more detectives working on child exploitation than I have on gun crime. For a place like Manchester, or any other conurbation with its level of violence and criminality, that is quite a statement to make. With that level of interest and resources there will come more convictions."

GMP and prosecutors were forced to apologise in the wake of the convictions last May when it emerged that victims had not been believed and the initial investigation into the ring which operated out of local takeaways, had been halted.

The men, eight of whom were of Pakistani descent, were later jailed for a total of 77 years for abusing their five victims, the youngest of whom was 13, after plying them with drink, drugs and fast food.

ACC Heywood said lessons had since been learnt and he compared the new approach to Operation Excalibur which was put in place to stem the rising tide of shootings in Manchester in the 1990s which earned the city the nickname Gunchester.

He said the levels of violence only began to fall in earnest when communities which previously accepted gun crime as a "norm" and other local agencies became involved in the fight.

Police and prosecutors believe the problem of child sexual exploitation is not confined to Muslim communities but is present among all ethnic groups across Britain.

Investigators in Rochdale alone have identified 43 potential victims of child sexual exploitation. Meanwhile, GMP is also in contact with a further 30 victims of suspected historic sexual abuse who were pupils of Chetham's School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music.

Ten past and present teachers are now being investigated in the case which follows the conviction of former head of music Michael Brewer who was jailed for indecently assaulting Frances Andrade, who later killed herself after giving evidence at his trial.

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