03/07/2017 16:20 BST

Rochdale Grooming Case Examined In BBC’s The Betrayed Girls

The authorities just wrote them off.

Ripples of shock from the child grooming and sex trafficking scandal in Rochdale are still being felt to this day.

Nine men of mainly Pakistani heritage were convicted in 2012 after a long, complex trial for offences that happened in and around Rochdale in 2008 and 2009.

The trial at Liverpool Crown Court in 2012 heard five teenagers - aged between 13 and 15 - were given alcohol, food and money in return for sex but there were times when violence was used.

Former Detective Constable Maggie Oliver 

Police said the victims were from “chaotic”, “council estate” backgrounds and as many as 50 girls could have been victims of the gang.

A chance to stop the gang was missed in 2008 and both the police and the CPS were forced to apologise for their failings.

Now BBC Documentary The Betrayed Girls focuses on the real people at the heart of the story, some of whom are speaking for the first time. 

The 90 minute documentary features the harrowing testimony of victims whose stories have not been told before and includes interviews with those brave enough to speak out on behalf of the girls, including manager of the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team Sara Rowbotham, former Detective Constable Maggie Oliver and chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal.

Sara Rowbotham, manager of the Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team 

The programme also examines how it was not just the professionals whose job it was to look after the girls that looked away. It points out many from the police, social services, Muslim community and political sphere also ignored their plight.

The gang of nine men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years from a judge who said they treated their victims “as though they were worthless and beyond any respect”.

The first victim, who was 15 when the abuse began, told the police what had been happening to her in August 2008. She specifically spoke of her abuse at the hands of two members of the gang who would later be jailed four years.

Her complaint was not taken seriously and she carried on being abused by the gang until December 2008 when she fell pregnant and moved away.

The “patchy” training of frontline staff was to blame for the way children’s social care responded to the victims, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its review into child sexual exploitation after the trial.

The picture which emerged was one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, who were being targeted for sexual abuse and written off by authorities who believed the girls were “making their own choices”.

In 2014 an inquiry led by MP Ann Coffey suggested sexual exploitation of children had become “normal” on some streets and estates in Greater Manchester. The report also showed that more than 3,000 children under the age of 18 were reported missing in Greater Manchester in 2014.

One in five children and young people who go missing from home or care is at risk of serious harm, with “major concerns” about the links between children running away and the risks of child sexual exploitation, it said.

The grooming scandals in Rochdale and similar ones in other cities which involved Asian men, including Oxford and Rotherham, have fuelled fight-wing groups opposing multiculturalism and immigration.

The Betrayed Girls airs on BBC One on 3 July at 8.30pm.