BBC’s Three Girls Sheds New Light On The Rochdale Sex Abuse Scandal

One of the most controversial court cases in recent history is the subject of a gripping new drama. 

BBC’s Three Girls tells the stories of Holly, Amber and Ruby, who fell victim to the Rochdale grooming ring, and explores how the effects of these devastating events lingered for years to come. 

Although nine men were convicted for their part in the Rochdale sex abuse scandal, this provided little justice for its victims. Shunned by the authorities, the girls had to fight to have their voices heard.

The drama – which boasts an impressive cast including Maxine Peake, Jill Halfpenny and Lesley Sharp – hopes to highlight the impact this lack of support can have on the young and vulnerable. Producers spent three years collecting information from victims, their families and others who were involved in the case to ensure a fair representation of events – all of whom have given the series their blessing.

Here are a few things you need to know before BBC’s Three Girls airs… 

1. The drama is a three-part series, debuting on BBC1 on Tuesday May 16, at 9pm, for three consecutive nights.  

2. The case shines the spotlight on not only the abusers, but the failings of the local authorities who originally said that girls’ accounts weren’t ‘credible’. They had to make a public apology after the gang were convicted. 

3. Margaret Oliver, a police officer played by Lesley Sharp, has been very involved with the production of BBC’s Three Girls. Margaret worked on the 2012 case and then later resigned in protest to how the girls were treated. In a heartbreaking essay
penned for the BBC, Margaret admitted that the victims were treated badly, and weren’t given the reassurances and protection they deserved.

She said, “For me, the end of the road was when they betrayed the trust I’d earned from a key witness and I couldn’t get assurances on how vulnerable witnesses would be treated in the future. I knew men who’d violently abused girls were still walking the streets and we had the power to stop them.

“I couldn’t do a job I loved as long as I knew rapists were getting away with it because police viewed the girls they preyed upon as unreliable witnesses. The criminals knew this and they were emboldened by it.”

“‘No one will believe you,’ they’d laugh at sobbing girls, as they left them crushed in a heap on the floor.”

4. Shabir Ahmed, the gang’s ring leader, was jailed for 19 years after being found guilty of a string of child sex offences.  

But Margaret Oliver said that this just wasn’t enough. In the piece for the BBC, she wrote “There were many, many more who got away with it and I was left with the sense that this was a box the police didn’t really want to open.

5. Margaret Oliver hopes that the programme will show the need for the police to prioritise a relationship and establishment of trust with people who come forward with crimes. She said, “When the human side of the police is shown, we always break down barriers and there are plenty of shining examples of brilliant police officers who do this week in week out.

“But we need more and we need leaders who set a culture in place who insist the values of empathy, honesty and integrity are always upheld in our dealings with vulnerable victims. If we can’t reach out to vulnerable witnesses, all the announcements from Westminster won’t mean a thing.” 

“But they couldn’t keep the lid down for long and now the secret is out. A crime that had been contained and swept under the carpet for years can no longer be ignored.”

6. Maxine Peake, who plays the sexual health worker that fought for justice for the girls, is one to watch. Prior to BBC’s Three Girls, she played Veronica Ball in Channel 4’s Shameless, barrister Martha Costello in BBC legal drama Silk. She also starred opposite the late Victoria Wood in Dinnerladies.

7. While we learn about the experiences of Holly, Amber and Ruby, there are still many other girls’ stories that go untold. The Rochdale grooming case identified a total of forty-seven girls as being victims of child sexual exploitation.   

8. If you miss out when BBC’s Three Girls airs, it will be available on BBC iPlayer shortly after. The show will be available for 30 days after the final episode.