A probe into how a vulnerable Calderdale girl was raped and abused by more than a 100 men has found chances to stop an evil gang from preying on her were missed.
The case came to light earlier this year when 15 men were convicted of grooming and sexually abusing the child for several years in Halifax and Bradford.
They were all jailed, including Huddersfield’s Mansoor Akhtar, who was given a six year sentence last June. Two more men have also been convicted.
Police and social services chiefs have now admitted they did not work well enough to investigate the issue, leaving the girl in the hands of the sex gang for three years.
The youngster, known as Jeanette in the report, was drugged and raped by the gang from the age of 12 to 15.
She fell into their hands after she began to hang around in parks following the death of her mother and the absence and neglect of her father, who often left her without food or heating.
Despite concerns being raised by her school, social workers and police, a lack of co-ordination between professionals meant her case was never given full attention.
Her tragic tale only came to light when she was moved out of the area to a new foster family by Calderdale Council’s social services.
Finally in a new environment she realised her life of abuse was not normal and came forward to tell the police what was going on.
Stuart Smith, Calderdale Council’s director of children’s services, admitted his department had not been adept at spotting child sexual exploitation (CSE) at the time.
He said: “We weren’t suspicious enough and took some things at face value that we shouldn’t have.
“We weren’t very good at sharing information about this kind of crime or spotting the signs that it was being committed.”
Mr Smith said the council was a “million miles” away from that now and had overhauled its practices and policies to uncover CSE earlier. He said a historic review going back ten years had not found any other cases.
Det Supt, Darren Minton, from West Yorkshire Police, said: “We would like to apologise to the victim for the failings of the West Yorkshire Police.
“We would also like to thank her for her immense courage and bravery in making the disclosures and giving her evidence, which led to the convictions of 17 men for the sexual offences against her.
“West Yorkshire Police accepts that opportunities were missed in the past to protect victims of CSE.
“It is important to stress it is now a top priority and we now have strong partnerships and better working practicies with agencies.”
A serious case review by Calderdale Safeguarding Children Board has concluded that opportunities to help the young girl were missed but changes to systems should now prevent it from ever happening again.
Richard Burrows, Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Children Board said:“Three main agencies, Calderdale Council’s Children’s Social Care team, the NHS and the West Yorkshire Police, initially failed to protect Jeanette, despite attempts made by some very committed individual professionals.
“Nothing changed for Jeanette until her own realisation in December 2011 that she had been abused, at which point she actively sought help.
"Unfortunately it is a common consequence of grooming that victims of CSE do not always initially recognise that they have been abused.
"Once Jeanette began to disclose her experiences, the support she was given by all of the agencies involved was co-ordinated appropriately and Jeanette responded well.
“The review found that in the five years since then, partners have worked hard to make sure that there is a robust and resilient approach to tackling CSE and child abuse in Calderdale.
“The arrangements for protecting vulnerable children are now as they should be and partners continue to respond to what victims and young people are telling them.
“This is not to say that there is any room for complacency and we will continue to learn and improve."
Leader of Calderdale Council, Clr Tim Swift said: “We fully accept the report’s finding and its recommendations and we are so sorry that Jeanette became the victim of these crimes. Initially we did not understand what was happening to her or do enough to protect her.
“We have made significant changes as a result of our understanding of Jeanette's case and I am pleased that the review recognises that our policies and procedures now bear no resemblance to the practices in place five years ago."
Calderdale Council was recently given an award for its CSE Hub, which sees social workers share information with police on a daily basis.