A DAMNING report has found a catalogue of missed opportunities to protect the young victim of a grooming gang in Keighley.

The police and social services have both apologised after an independent review found the victim could have been protected sooner and highlighted a host of failings in the way she was dealt with.

The girl was repeatedly raped by the gang in encounters arranged by a violent drug dealer over 13 months between 2011 and 2012, when she was 13 and 14.

Earlier this year, 12 men were jailed for more than 140 years between them for their part in the abuse.

On one occasion, the girl was gang-raped by five of the men who “lined her up” and took it turns to abuse her.

The drug dealer, described as the “evil mastermind” of the group, Arif Choudhury, is thought to have fled to Bangladesh.

Yesterday, a serious case review found that multiple opportunities were missed by the authorities to protect the girl from this abuse.

The report, which gives the girl the name of ‘Autumn’, describes “confusion and disagreement” between the various agencies and a “consistent failure” to assess her circumstances properly.

It says: “When she was raped by her main groomer in May 2011, she made three separate disclosures to agencies about this incident.”

It says she “tended to withdraw allegations once she had made them”.

This led to the authorities forming a view of her as unreliable, which “saw her withdraw further into silence and made her more vulnerable to the power of her abusers”.


Detective Superintendent Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “It’s very clear that West Yorkshire Police failed this girl on a number of levels.

“It’s certainly clear there were opportunities to safeguard her that were missed.

“There were investigative opportunities to get to grips fairly quickly with the individuals that were perpetrating this sexual abuse upon her that were missed and there were opportunities particularly when she went missing to have made the connection between her going missing and the exploitation she was clearly suffering at that time.

“Knowing that, the most important thing for West Yorkshire Police to do is to acknowledge that and apologise to Autumn, which West Yorkshire Police clearly do.

“As a senior officer at West Yorkshire Police, I personally apologise to her as well.”

He said he hoped the subsequent investigation, which saw the 12 men jailed, was of “some comfort to her” and stressed that child abuse was now one of the police’s top priorities.

Prity Patel, chairman of the board which conducted the serious case review, said: “If we had had the systems we have now in place, then it might have been a different picture. I think at that stage, the missed opportunities occurred because professionals and partners didn’t have the knowledge that they have [now] around child sexual abuse.”

Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services at Bradford Council, said: “On a personal level and on a professional level I’m very sorry for what happened to Autumn. No child should endure the abuse she suffered and the crimes which were committed against her.

“That should never have happened and on reading the report there were missed opportunities to respond sooner and safeguard Autumn.”

The case directly led to the setting-up of Bradford’s child sexual exploitation hub, which brings together the police, social services and others to combat abuse and protect children.

David Niven, who chairs the district’s independent safeguarding children board, said Bradford was now regarded as a leader in the area of child protection.

He said the difference between the safeguarding processes in place now and what had been in place in 2011 and 2012, when Autumn was being abused, was like “chalk and cheese” - but added that they could never be complacent about the threat.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:
David Niven, chairman of the district’s independent safeguarding board, with Prity Patel, chairman of the board which conducted the Serious Case Review

In other recent cases involving Asian grooming gangs - notably in Rotherham - the police and other authorities had faced criticism for failing to act sooner out of a sense of misplaced political correctness.

But this review says “no evidence has come to light of a culture of denial” similar to that found in Rotherham.

Miss Patel said the serious case review team had explored the concern that the gang had been overlooked because of their background, but the conclusion was that in this case “it just so happened these perpetrators were from a particular community”.

Mr Niven said there was “no denying” the criminals in this case were Asian, but prominent sexual abuse cases from Jimmy Savile to recent allegations of abuse in sport showed perpetrators could be from any background.

Det Supt Wallen said: “I don’t think cultural niceties or political correctness were a barrier here, in this particular case.

“I think we missed opportunities because of our failings as an organisation to understand the problem but I do think in the future we need to watch very carefully that fear of offending, fear of causing offence, or upsetting minority ethnic groups does not stand in the way of robust policing.”

Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said the report was a “comprehensive but also incredibly disturbing document”.

He said it was clear that there had been “many failings” and welcomed efforts to address them.

He said: “Twelve evil men are now in prison as a result of their heinous crimes against Autumn and, with further local child grooming cases due to be heard, I would expect a significant number of others to join them behind bars.

“We cannot and must not allow these sick individuals to operate in our town. With strong leadership now in place, West Yorkshire Police is rising to the challenge of taking them off our streets.”


July 2010 – The Barnardos Turnaround service assesses Autumn as being at high risk of child sexual exploitation as a 12-year-old who has been missing on two occasions and who gets texts and phone calls from older men. Autumn’s mother agrees she is at high risk. Barnardos refers her to a more local child sexual exploitation service, but this service doesn’t do anything with it. An opportunity for early intervention is missed.

November 2010 – A primary school contacts Children’s Specialist Services after Autumn’s sister says Autumn might be at risk of sexual abuse. An assessment is done the following month with both girls, which finds that their contact with a person deemed to pose a risk to children was unsubstantiated and the mother was seen as protective. The quality of the assessment is poor.

April 2011 – Autumn goes missing on April 9 and her mother tells police she is concerned she is being groomed by local Asian males. The police report no concerns about child sexual abuse in their report. Autumn goes missing again on April 11 and 12. Her grandmother reports concerns she is associating with older males. The police record that she is easily led but not necessarily vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 
Autumn’s school refer her to a child sexual exploitation support service. An assessment by Bradford Council’s Children’s Specialist Services frames the concerns around Autumn’s behaviour rather than focusing on what might be happening to her, describing adult sexual behaviour rather than sexual abuse.

May 2011 – Autumn’s mother rings her school to say she went missing the night before and says she has been raped. The school is not recorded as having done anything with this information. Autumn – who is 13 – and her mother go to the GP, who provides contraception and gives them literature, but no further action is recorded. Autumn tells police she had been driven around and raped by masked offenders but was described by the police as retracting her allegation. Autumn later says she had been willing to have a medical examination but was never asked. Autumn’s school receives information about Autumn being in contact with a known groomer, but it does not appear this was passed on. Children’s Specialist Services allocates a community resource worker, who is not a qualified social worker, to her case.

June 2011 – A strategy meeting is held between different agencies about Autumn, which fails to pull together key information. The police state that she is known to lie to the police.

July 2011 – The local child sexual exploitation support worker asks Autumn if she is involved in drugs or sexual exploitation and Autumn says she will think about this. She tells her mother she can’t say what is happening to her. Autumn’s mother gathers car numbers and details from her daughter’s phone, which she passes to police. Her father also tells the community resource worker he feels she is being groomed by Pakistanis and that she had been locked in a garage but had escaped. 
On July 13, Autumn’s school and the police record an incident in which she alleges she was ‘roughed up’ by an Asian man. She had missing buttons and hand marks where she had been grabbed. There is no record of her being medically examined. There is a collective failure to respond to these allegations.

September 2011 – Autumn’s school finds a used condom in her coat and reports it to the police, who incorrectly advise that no crime has been committed and it can be disposed of. The school do not challenge this advice.

May 2012 – In agreement with her mother, Autumn is placed in a foster placement but she leaves and is transported – probably by groomers – back to a family member’s home. She agrees to a video interview with police and discloses a number of rapes.