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|Occupation||social activist, former police officer|
|Known for||investigating the Rochdale child abuse ring|
Margaret Oliver is an English former Detective Constable with the Greater Manchester Police. She is known as a whistleblower for exposing the poor handling of the Rochdale child sex abuse ring case by her own force. Oliver is also a media personality known for her participation on Celebrity Big Brother.
Law enforcement career
Oliver joined Greater Manchester Police in 1997 as a Police Constable. She remained with the force until her resignation in March 2013 in response to the handling of the Rochdale child sex abuse ring.
Exposing the Rochdale child sex abuse ring
Operation Augusta in Hulme and Rusholme
As a detective constable, Oliver was the lead investigator on the Rochdale child sex abuse ring case for the Greater Manchester Police. She claims that the convictions that were made in the Rochdale child sex abuse ring of 9 men in early 2012 barely scratched the surface of what she describes as a highly organised crime group that numbered hundreds of perpetrators and countless young victims. At the time that Oliver started investigating the sex abuse ring she had already worked for the police force since 1996. She had been part of The Serious Crime Division of the GMP and investigated countless gangland murders, shootings, kidnappings, rapes and witness protection jobs. The first contact with the scandal was her investigation into multiple severe sexual assaults perpetrated by mainly Pakistani men.
During her work in Operation Augusta Oliver interviewed many victims, some as young as eleven. She was again shocked by the lack of response of the police force and the lack of efforts in trying to protect the victims. She claims that it seemed as if the authorities had already known about the crimes for ten years when she started working on Operation Augusta. In Operation Augusta an almost identical pattern could be observed to what was happening in Rochdale. In the operation 26 teenage girls had been identified who had been trafficked to about 206 suspects in Hulme and Rusholme. They were abused by men of mainly Pakistani background. One of the girls that was abused by suspects in Operation Augusta died in Rochdale.
In Operation Augusta, 16 child victims and 97 perpetrators were identified — of which 3 were taken to court.
The television programme Dispatches filmed a documentary called "Edge of the City". During the filming of the documentary the crew found out that girls in Yorkshire were being groomed and abused by a network of men. The girl who had died in Rochdale was one of the group of girls that were being filmed by the team. The Greater Manchester Police had the broadcast of the documentary delayed, for fear that it would make the failure of the force in protecting the girls public. After the broadcast, a small group of detectives was formed to deal with the problem of the grooming gangs. In 2005 Oliver left the force as her husband, Norman, was dying of terminal cancer. When she returned she claims that the investigations were closed. None of the perpetrators had been prosecuted and the victims were still being abused. She was told that the victims "were prostitutes making a life style choice" and that they were "bad kids" and not credible witnesses. Oliver was disgusted by this and said that the victims were among the most vulnerable children within British society.
Mayor of Manchester's re-evaluation
The Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, ordered an independent report on Operation Augusta which was published on 14 January 2020. It found failings by police and children's services.  Greater Manchester Police have accepted the report and apologised to the victims "who have been denied justice" and said it had established a major investigation team to look again at the abuse of Victoria and the other girls in 2004. The chief constable has asked that all lines of enquiry from 2004 should be pursued, and further information has emerged in 38 of the 52 cases with new victims and new alleged attackers.
Operation Span in Rochdale
In 2010 Oliver received a phone call about a job breaking in Rochdale. The phone call was an invitation to join Operation Span, which was the investigation of child grooming in Rochdale. The original investigation in 2008/9 had been a car crash. The girls had been labelled unreliable witnesses and the CPS had decided not to prosecute. Oliver was asked to try to regain the trust of the girls. She only agreed to take on the case because the department assured her that what happened in Operation Augusta wouldn't happen in this operation again. There had been an exhibit which was kept as evidence within the department. The fetus had been ceased within a termination of a pregnancy of a 13-year-old child (nicknamed Ruby). The exhibit had been found in a routine property review. The family had never given consent to have the fetus be kept as an exhibit. Her sister, who was at the time 15 years old was suspected to be a madam (procurer of prostitutes for pimps) for a group of Pakistani men and thus she had been arrested. As the patterns in Rochdale were identical to what had happened in Operation Augusta, Oliver was asked to join the investigation around the exhibit and the sisters.
Oliver started her investigation by trying to gain the trust of the family of the two sisters. From the testimonies of the girls and their mother Olivers team found locations where the abuse had happened, vehicles used to transport the victims and identified many serial sex offenders. The family also did ID parades and helped police identify locations, times, phones numbers and names of the abusers.
Oliver claims that she was told by colleagues that they were planning on never using the testimonies of the family of the sisters and her mother (nicknamed Amber). She claims that they were trying to alienate the mother and make her go away and stop cooperating with the police so that there would be no evidence of the crimes. Oliver also said that they did not record the crimes that the family alleged in their testimonies and instead just buried all of the reports. When Oliver got upset about the handling of the case she claims one of her seniors told her, "Maggie, calm down. Listen: What would these kids ever contribute to society? They should have just been drowned at birth." After this Oliver stormed off the job. Her colleagues proceeded to not tell the family that they weren't using their testimonies to prosecute the perpetrators. When they had to put up a trial because of public outrage they realised that they need the testimony of one of the girls for it. In order to force her to testify they turned her from a victim into an offender for the crimes. They used the video tapes of the interviews that Oliver had conducted her in order to prosecute her. Although the girl was never told what she was charged with, which is a breach of judicial procedures. She was portrayed as a madam, who procured other girls for the pedophile sex ring although she had only been 15 at that time. This would have never stood in court as the CPS had already identified her as a victim. But the girl was scared enough by the charges that she complied and testified again in the trial. Oliver was forbidden from talking to the family.
After the trial was over Oliver talked to the family again. She asked whether they were aware that the daughter had been put on the indictment as one of the perpetrators within the pedophile network. They family wasn't aware of that at all. But what had happened is that she had had another baby and social services had taken that baby from her after birth. Now the family knew that the reason for that had been that she had been named as one of the perpetrators within the pedophile ring. Oliver suspects that the social services did that for intimidation and also in order to cover their wrongdoings within the whole ordeal. The baby was taken unlawfully as no court order by a judge had been obtained. One year after the child had been taken away a judge ruled that the baby was to be returned to the family. Not only had they taken the baby without a court order. It also came out later that member of social services had interviewed acquaintances of Amber in order to testify that she was a bad mother in order to take her children away from her.
During the investigation social workers told her that they had been trying to get the police to take this problem seriously for years.
Oliver said that the Child Protection Services were only equipped to deal with sexual abuse of children perpetrated by assaulters known by the victim (family members, teachers etc.) so that the type of assault taking place in grooming (by strangers) wasn't something that CPS was equipped to handle. Neither CPS nor the police had really felt responsible or had been equipped to deal with the new grooming phenomenon. Oliver claims that for 18 months she tried to be heard by different parts of the justice system including The Head of Serious Crime, The Chief Constable, The IPCC and The Home Office. She left the force in 2012 in disgust of the handling of the case by the Greater Manchester Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Oliver did this with the intention of speaking out about the mishandling of the cases and informing the public.
Allegations of ongoing cover-up
Oliver claims that a lot of the men that were involved in the abuse of the girls have not been charged, arrested or imprisoned until today. One example was a suspect that impregnated a 13 year old (proven by DNA evidence from the fetus of the forced abortion) was released after two years. Countless others weren't charged at all or are already free again. She also claims that several men were fighting extradition and that they received legal aid from the government that amounts to millions of pounds in order to do that.
Criticism of the charges brought forward
Oliver said that the men could have been charged with crimes that would have carried higher sentences in the trial. Even though all of them had been perpetrators of rapes of dozens of underage girls a lot of them were never charged with rape. Not even the man that raped Ruby, where they had a fetus and DNA evidence to prove that he was guilty, was eventually charged with rape. Instead a lot of the suspects were only charged with conspiracy to rape or with human trafficking which were charges that were easier to prove.
Criticism of the treatment of victims
Oliver criticised the treatment of the victims by the authorities both during the investigation, during the trial and after the trials ended. She also said that as there are usually several perpetrators in grooming trials when victims testify in court they are questioned repeatedly by every lawyer of ever suspected perpetrator, which puts the victims under extreme stress and constitutes an immense re- victimisation. Oliver said that there should be a system in place that refers victims to support networks that include long term psychological counseling and other services.
Media portrayals and appearances
Oliver was portrayed by Lesley Sharp in Three Girls, a BBC drama about the Rochdale child sex abuse ring. She also acted as a consultant for the series. Oliver was also a key contributor to The Betrayed Girls documentary by the BBC.
Oliver founded the Maggie Oliver Foundation for the survivors of the Rochdale abuse scandal. The mission of the foundation is to "transform pain into power." The foundation is planning on opening a network of "Maggie Oliver Centres" for women. It is intended to be run by volunteers and survivors of the scandal. In the house support will be given to those who have been affected by sexual abuse. They will receive help to access support, legal advice, therapy, training and education. Oliver is also a public speaker raising awareness on sexual abuse perpetrated by organised grooming gangs. Oliver regularly appears on the ITV programme Loose Women. There she started the Never Too Late To Tell campaign in December 2016, which encourages all survivors of sexual assault to speak out about what happened to them. On the programme she gave further advice on recording evidence, having an open dialogue with children, monitoring technology, enlisting help and looking for changes in children's behaviour as signs of abuse.
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