The Maggie Oliver Fundiation

Statement on Oldham Council Debate on Child Sexual Abuse

13 July 2023


In Oldham Council’s meeting on 12th July, Maggie Oliver and The Maggie Oliver Foundation were mentioned in a debate relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation.  We know that use of our name and Maggie’s for other’s agendas can do untold damage to survivors and their recovery journeys, as such we feel it is important to our clarify our position in our own words. 

Maggie says;

“Myself and everyone at The Maggie Oliver Foundation have been devastated this morning to hear that survivors and their families might feel let down after we were mentioned in last night’s Oldham Council debate about child sexual abuse and exploitation in the town.  I have dedicated the last twenty years to fighting for survivors, and along with my team at the Foundation, my life is still consumed with this mission.

I want to make it clear that I have not spoken to anyone at Oldham Council about this matter and no permission was given by me, or anyone at the Foundation, to mention us in the meeting last night.

Councillors Shah and Bashforth both referred to my support, and that of my Foundation’s, for the final part of GMCA’s assurance review into child sexual exploitation (CSE) which is soon to begin.  This review will examine current practices across all Greater Manchester councils and GMP to assess if they are fit for purpose in protecting children from sexual exploitation.  I am a great believer that before change can happen, we need to know the true facts, and I hope this review will leave no stone unturned in seeking these.  Of course we support anything which will protect children and so the review itself has my backing.  I will reserve judgement on whether the review will achieve its aims until its findings are published.  From our daily work supporting survivors, we are in no doubt whatsoever that the current system for investigating and prosecuting these devastating crimes is absolutely not fit for purpose, and the hundreds of survivors we are currently supporting would say the same.  

We have been contacted by survivors in Oldham and their families today, concerned that we also back the review into historical CSE in Oldham, the findings of which were published last year. I want to clarify that this is absolutely not the case.  

As I said in the statement released at the time, Oldham Council repeatedly tried to silence the survivor Sam, known also as ‘Sophie’ and it was only through my personal advocacy, and my relationship with the review team, which led to her being interviewed by them.  The Council had told the review team that Sam was not prepared to speak to them as she was suicidal.  This was completely untrue but it clearly shows the depths to which the authorities will still go in their attempts to silence victims and cover up failings and wrongdoings by the police and other statutory agencies.  As Councillor Quigg quite rightly pointed out in last night’s meeting, the eleven survivors included in the review are undoubtedly not the only ones, and of these eleven, only Sam was actually given a voice and the opportunity to speak in the review, which is truly shocking to me.  

I  also want to clarify my position on calls on the Home Office for a public inquiry into historical CSE in Oldham.  I absolutely believe that survivors deserve to be heard and to get justice.  I have spent the last two decades of my life campaigning for exactly this.  Personally, however, I am not convinced that a public inquiry will achieve this.  I know this from my observations over the past twenty years and perhaps the most serious example of this is the Home Office ordered Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).  This Inquiry lasted seven years, costing multiple millions of pounds.  Its findings were published across many reports from November 2020 to October 2022, making twenty recommendations which the government has still failed to implement.  Councillor Quigg, again rightly, made the point that despite the reviews not a single senior person in public office has been held accountable for failing to protect children and allowing them to fall victim to the monstrous perpetrators of CSE.  His comment was in relation to Oldham but applies nationally.

I want to see power brought back to a local level and put into the hands of victims and survivors so their voices, experiences and opinions can be heard.  I want to see not just perpetrators but those in public office responsible for turning a blind eye to these terrible crimes to face justice.  The police have the power to do this if they are brave and really want to show that “lessons have been learned”.  Police and Crime Commissioners have the power to urge the police to do this, and I believe, in truth, that it is their duty. 

Following the Oldham review, Operation Sherwood was launched by GMP to investigate historic CSE.  Survivors we have been supporting at the Foundation have mixed experiences of this investigation so far.  We urge GMP and GMCA to do better for these survivors.  Anyone who would like to report to the police or who has reported and is not getting the service they deserve, please get in touch with the Foundation and we will do all we can to help.”

Please note, our team are taking a short break over Christmas as will not be checking emails regularly. We'll respond once we are back on Tuesday 3rd January. Thank you for understanding.

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