Senior police officers in the north-west may have feared that a controversial TV programme about sexual grooming in Keighley could have heightened media and political interest in any similar problem in Manchester, a new report has revealed.

Fears over race relations appear to have played a part in senior police thinking when tackling grooming gangs, the report into child sex exploitation in Manchester suggests.

The 'assurance report' reviewing how Greater Manchester Police (GMP) dealt with the street grooming of vulnerable teenage girls, perpetrated disproportionately by Asian men, states officers were aware of "many sensitive community issues" around policing in south Manchester in 2002 and 2003.

The report, by Malcolm Newsam, a renowned child care expert, and Gary Ridgeway, a former detective superintendent with Cambridgeshire Police, concludes vulnerable girls in care were groomed and abused in "plain sight", with police and Manchester City Council failing to act after shelving a major investigation to tackle the problem, Operation Augusta, in 2005.

The report states senior officers were aware of a Channel 4 TV programme, Edge Of The City, broadcast in August 2004, about a similar problem in Keighley, and it was thought this could potentially raise media and political interest in any similar problem occurring in Manchester, particularly as it involved accusations of grooming schoolchildren.

"Concerns were expressed about the risk of proactive tactics or the incitement of racial hatred," the report stated.

In May 2004, the Telegraph & Argus reported how the programme about Bradford Council's social services department was postponed amid fears it could increase community tension.

At the time, a Channel 4 spokesman said the decision was made after discussions with West Yorkshire Police, adding: "The police feared the timing of the broadcast would increase community tensions in Bradford with the risk that it would lead to public disorder."

The programme was postponed and shown in August of that year.

GMP had at that time recently dealt with an unrelated case involving Kurdish people in the south Manchester that had created community tensions and Operation Augusta was to examine accusations against another minority group.

However, a Detective Superintendent was emphatic that any concerns about creating further community tensions did not influence any of his investigative decisions, but the impact "clearly had to be considered" by senior officers in the gold command group.

The report quotes an unnamed GMP detective constable, involved in the arrest and jailing of one child sex offender, who was not of Asian heritage.

It quotes him saying: "He was grooming kids, the demographics didn't fit as it was a prosperous middle-class area, and they were well-to-do kids. They weren't from the original tranche of children that were in children's homes.

"What had a massive input was the offending target group were predominantly Asian males and we were told to try and get other ethnicities."

However, a whistleblower has claimed senior police "betrayed the public" and tried to "bury the truth" after reading the damning report.

The report revealed officers suspected young girls were being abused "in plain sight" by Asian grooming gangs but did nothing to help.

Former detective Maggie Oliver, who resigned from her job over the scandal, said the report "makes me want to sing from the rooftops" as GMP issued a public apology, referred themselves to watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and relaunched a criminal investigation with 38 potential victims identified so far.

The report was ordered by Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, after BBC documentary The Betrayed Girls, which aired in 2017, featured Ms Oliver - who he said had been "fully vindicated".

It centres on Operation Augusta, set up in 2004, which was prompted by the death of Victoria Agoglia, 15, a girl under the care of Manchester City Council, who reported being raped and injected with heroin by a 50-year-old Asian man.

She died of a drugs overdose two months later on September 29, 2003.

The police operation launched in response the year after identified at least 57 victims and 97 potential suspects, some involved with Ms Agoglia, and a "compelling picture of the systemic exploitation of looked after children in the care system" was established by detectives.

But senior officers at GMP chose to under-resource the investigation, the report said, and a decision was made to close it down in 2005.

Joan Agoglia, Victoria's grandmother, broke down in tears at a press conference in Manchester with Mr Burnham, Ms Oliver, and the report's authors.

Mrs Agoglia said her granddaughter went into care against her wishes after her own daughter developed terminal brain cancer.

She added: "She was such a lovely girl, a wonderful girl. She didn't deserve to die. I've been fighting all my life for this. She told me herself what these men had done to her.

"I used to give her a bath because she was so bruised. I promised her...there's no way they are going to get away with this."

The report cited "clear evidence" girls, aged 12-16, were being abused "generally perpetrated by a group of older Asian men" including the police having their names, where they lived or worked and the flats above takeaway shops where the abuse occurred.

It included plying girls with drugs and alcohol, physical abuse and rape and being forced to have sex with multiple men at "sex parties".

Some suspects even visited council-run children's homes, bringing alcohol and cannabis, with the apparent knowledge of council staff.

Ms Oliver said when she raised concerns, she was met with "misogyny" and the "old boys' network", described as an "emotional woman" and dismissed as "too involved" with victims.

She said: "The question I would ask everyone to consider today is, what is the real cost of all these lies?

"Fifteen years the perpetrators we knew on Operation Augusta were abusing generations of children, and were allowed to walk free.

"Those children were just cast to the wind.

"I'm talking about people at the top of the police and at the social services.

"The people who knew the facts, knew the truth and they chose to bury the truth.

"That, in my opinion, is unforgivable.

"The question I would raise is, 'Why are these people not facing charges of misconduct in a public office?'

"Where is the accountability?"

No one has been disciplined or reprimanded from the police or social services, and most of those involved are understood to have retired.

Mr Burnham said disciplinary action was a matter for the chief constable of GMP, and while Operation Augusta was closed down under a previous chief constable, the report did not uncover evidence it was "wilfully obstructed" or "unethically stopped."

He added: "The report makes extremely difficult reading. Victoria's death should have been a wake-up call on child sexual exploitation to the whole of Greater Manchester.

"But it wasn't. Her death exposed a network of paedophiles brazenly abusing young people - girls and boys - in care.

"Each and every one of those abusers should have been brought to justice but, appallingly, most escaped and some were left to reoffend."

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins said: "On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, I want to apologise to all those vulnerable children who were let down in 2004 by police not thoroughly investigating the offences that had been committed against them.

"I want to say that I am personally disgusted that these children were not cared for and by the awful abuse that they suffered. I am committed to doing all we can to ensure that they receive the justice today that they were denied 15 years ago.

"Since the Mayor of Greater Manchester launched his review looking into the abuse of vulnerable children in care and the involvement of Greater Manchester Police, I have been personally involved and committed to sharing all of the information that the review team required.

"In August 2018, it became clear that the Operation Augusta investigation was not to the standard that I would expect. I immediately commissioned a review to ensure that any risks posed by potential perpetrators would be addressed.

"I also wanted to ensure that any victims were provided with the appropriate support from specialist agencies.

"Following our internal review, a multi-agency team was established under Operation Green Jacket. This included an SIO led Major Incident Team who were prepared to follow any potential lines of enquiry which could be pursued and seek to bring any potential perpetrators to justice.

"To date Operation Green Jacket has identified 53 potential victims. 48 of these children were in looked after care in 2004/05.

"Of the 53 identified, we have so far identified viable lines of enquiry in relation to 38 victims.

"This includes the horrific abuse of Victoria Agoglia. In September 2019, one man was arrested and another interviewed under caution. Both men have been released under investigation and our enquiries remain ongoing.

"We will continue to do all that we can to safeguard children within our communities. Greater Manchester Police will investigate any report of child exploitation that is made."