MORE than 100 victims of an ethnic minority child grooming gang in Scotland have faced “unacceptable” delays in bringing their abusers to justice.
Although detectives have reported 27 suspects to the Crown Office, only one man has been named as part of the massive investigation into child sexual exploitation which ended more than two years ago.Some of the victims were as young as 10 and all of them were vulnerable young girls, with many of them living in care homes in and around Glasgow.
Failed Afghan asylum seeker Javaid Akhond is the only named individual to face justice as a result of Operation Dash. He was 20 when he was sentenced to six years in prison in 2014 for the rape and sexual abuse of children as young as 12.
Following repeated requests to Police Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), this newspaper has learned there have four convictions in total.However, only two abusers have been given custodial sentences and the other three individuals have not been identified while the details of their crimes remain unknown.
A police investigation named Operation Cotswold was launched in 2011 to investigate child grooming gangs in Glasgow, before it was expanded and renamed Dash two years later. It eventually involved 12 council and health board areas across the west of Scotland and finally came to an end in February 2015.
Both probes centred on ethnic minority men targeting youngsters in and around Glasgow, especially in care homes in the north of the city, and identified between 100 and 140 potential victims.
However, six years after the probe began most of the suspects are still thought to be at large in the city and many of the children involved are still awaiting justice. An earlier attempt to prosecute “several men” over the abuse of 26 children under Operation Cotswold failed after the young victims who had absconded from children’s homes were “reluctant” to cooperate with the police.The delay is in stark contrast with similar cases south of the Border, where grooming gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale, Manchester, Oxford, Derbyshire and elsewhere have been brought to justice in as little as three years.
The shocking picture began to emerge in 2012, when the Rotherham abuse scandal revealed that sexual abuse of vulnerable white girls by Asian men in the Yorkshire town had been much more widespread than previously thought, partly due to the authorities’ fear of being seen as racist.
Similar stories followed across the UK, including in Glasgow where a report two years ago revealed that sexual abuse by grooming gangs was encountered as part of “day to day practice”.Last night, Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham who founded the Dare2Care child abuse campaign, admitted the apparent lack of action north of the Border was “odd”.
She added: “From my experience and talking to people from all over Britain, this crime is going on in every town and in every city.
“The numbers of both suspects and victims is not a surprise to me. What I’m surprised about, however, is that you haven’t had many prosecutions based on that. If they have identified these 27 people but nothing came of it, why did they get it so wrong? It’s unacceptable.”
Graeme Pearson, the former Labour MSP and ex-director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, agreed that the lack of progress was disturbing.He added: “I am surprised that a number of cases has not already been dealt with by the courts in the intervening period and disappointed that the COPFS are unable to give out a fuller account of what happened with the result of the operation.”
A Care Inspectorate report published in January states that 139 potential victims were identified over the course of Operation Dash.
Glasgow City Council also received an update from the city’s Social Work Services and Police Scotland last September.
It said: “Glasgow had 84 children and young people identified in the operation, ranging in ages, the youngest being 10 years old and the oldest being 21 years of age. The majority of children were known to services and had active social work involvement, although there were a small number of children who were not known and who were the victims of serious sexual crimes perpetrated by adult males.
“The police investigation resulted in a total of 28 reports submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in relation to 27 individuals across the investigation. All of these individuals were male and overall the majority of suspects were assessed to be 16 to 25 years of age. Glasgow had 14 suspects who were known to Glasgow Social Work Services. There are still Court proceedings ongoing relative to Operation Dash.”Detective Superintendent Elaine Galbraith, Police Scotland’s Child Protection lead, said Operation Dash was a multi-agency response to identify children and young people who may be at risk of sexual exploitation and offer protection, support and help.c
She added: “Through the lifetime of the operation, there were occasions where evidence of criminality was identified resulting in a number of separate criminal investigations into a potential offender or offenders under the auspices of Operation Dash.
“Where there was sufficient evidence to arrest and charge an individual or individuals a report was submitted to Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of prosecution. Such investigations were undertaken by the Operation Dash enquiry team until such a point that all of the original information had been subject of multi agency assessment and there were no further lines of enquiry.”This resulted in a number of individuals being reported to COPFS throughout the duration of the investigation.”
A spokesman for COPFS said: “As a result of the operation four men were convicted in separate cases and two of those received custodial sentences.
“Tackling such abuse has always been and wi
ll continue to be a high priority for COPFS and we have specialist prosecutors and a dedicated National Sexual Crimes Unit which has helped to give more complainers the confidence to come forward.”
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