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IOPC investigation into OP Augusta officers discontinued

The investigation had concerned three former officers and their involvement in investigating child sexual exploitation in South Manchester.

Op Augusta was a 2004 police and social services investigation into CSE. Following the convictions of nine men, subsequent inquiries and reviews, revealed that more cases had not been followed up.

The operation had begun following the death of a 15-year-old girl, Victoria Agoglia, who was under the care of Manchester City Council.

She had reported being raped and injected with heroin by a 50-year-old Asian man. She died of a drug overdose two months later on September 29, 2003. 

The operation was closed in July 2005 despite having details of 97 potential suspects, some involved with Ms Agoglia, and at least 57 potential victims. 

Concerns had originally been identified by a mayoral review, published in January 2020 over the resourcing of, and decision to close, the joint police and social services investigation. 

In November 2012, Sara Rowbotham, a manager of the Rochdale NHS Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), reported to the Home Affairs Select Committee that she had made around 103 referrals to the police in respect of young people being sexually exploited.

GMP made a voluntary referrall to the IOPC in February 2020 regarding three former senior officers. 

Now, the IOPC has said that they have been unable to determine who took the final decision to close the operation nor the rationale for it. 

The watchdog cited the passage of time, lack of available records of meetings and decisions and that fact that some former GMP employed police witnesses were unable or unwilling to engage as problems. 

On the available evidence  - there was no indication the officers had acted in a way that breached professional standards. 

IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “The findings of the mayoral report caused understandable concern and it was important for our investigation into the resourcing and decision-making behind Operation Augusta to be both thorough and independent of the police.

“We gathered and reviewed a significant amount of evidence, which helped us understand some of the actions taken back then. While we found evidence that arrangements were put in place for the future safeguarding of survivors of child sexual exploitation, unfortunately, we – like the mayoral review team – were not able to locate evidence showing who took the decision to close Operation Augusta and, more importantly, why.” 

“We have identified several areas of potential learning for GMP to consider and now await further information on how practices have changed since 2005, which will inform our decision on whether to issue any statutory recommendations.”

GMP Deputy Chief Constable Terry Woods said: “The Greater Manchester approach to tackling and preventing child sexual exploitation is now thankfully entirely different to the timeframe of this report.

“In GMP we have a dedicated CSE (child sexual exploitation) unit who are committed to pursuing perpetrators and seeking justice for victims of CSE, regardless of the passage of time.

“This multi-agency response to safeguarding and tackling CSE is incomparable to the practices of 2005, and we will continue to engage with the IOPC on how practices have substantially changed since then and fully consider any recommendations they put forward.”

GMP has launched another criminal investigation into the case of Miss Agoglia and others identified by Operation Augusta.

In November 2020 GMP said the probe, codenamed Operation Green Jacket, had identified 126 suspected paedophiles and 71 suspected victims.

It added six arrests were made, including one man who was originally arrested following the death of Miss Agoglia.

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