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Police secretly seized Rochdale grooming victim’s aborted foetus, damning review finds

‘I feel like it’s illegal for them to rob a foetus, a part of me... that is disgusting,’ says victim

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Monday 15 January 2024 17:21 GMT
Related video: Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable issues grooming gang apology

Police officers working for Greater Manchester Police covertly took the aborted foetus of a 13-year-old grooming victim to be DNA tested without informing her or her parents, according to a damning report.

A 173-page review of the police and council in Rochdale has revealed a girl had an abortion at Rochdale Hospital at the age of 13 in 2009 after one of her abusers got her pregnant.

Officers from GMP subsequently seized took the foetus from the hospital, with her or her parents’ consent, so it could undergo forensic examination. The DNA did not match with any potential suspects being investigated at the time.

The foetus was put in a freezer at Rochdale police station and discovered at a “routine property review” some time later.

It was not until 2011, ahead of the trial of men who abused her and other victis, that the young girl, referred to as Child 44 in the report, discovered her foetus had been seized. The report’s authors said it was “highly unacceptable” that neither the girl or her parents were told.

The shocking detail emerged after the Rochdale report found girls were “left at the mercy” of paedophile grooming gangs for years because of failings by senior police and council bosses.

Speaking to the report’s authors about the ordeal, the teenager said: “I feel like it’s illegal for them to rob a foetus, a part of me, like that is disgusting they should’ve made me sign something. It was an abortion, I didn’t want it so I told them to get rid of it, and they robbed it.”

The report's authors condemned Greater Manchester Police for a “deplorable disregard for the victim's wishes and feelings”.

In a 2012 trial, the girl gave evidence but was “particularly distressed” that the man who got her pregnant at 13 was not charged with raping her. He was found guilty of conspiracy and sentenced to eight years in prison for trafficking for sexual exploitation. He was released on licence from jail less than four years after he was sentenced.

The new review identifies 96 men still considered to be a potential risk to children, but this is “only a proportion” of the numbers involved in the abuse.

Speaking in a press conference on Monday, Greater Manchester Police issued an apology for its failings, with Chief Constable Stephen Watson saying they are “determined to do all that we can to bring offenders to justice.”

“One of the primary responsibilities of the police is to protect the vulnerable from the cruel and predatory, and in this regard, we failed you,” he said. “It remains, of course, a source of profound regret that we cannot turn back the clock”.

In one incident unveiled by the report, a victim referred to as Amber saw herself arrested and then released on bail to live with a man who had previously been arrested on suspicion of child sexual exploitation.

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