A JUDGE has slammed police and social services after the sexual abuse of two sisters went unpunished for nearly two decades.
Predator Paul Ward, 50, was able to torment his stepdaughters, aged five and six when his abuse began in the early 90s, without fear of justice.
Despite a conviction for abusing a four-year-old boy - and being known to social services, the police and the CPS - he was left to groom the girls with sweets at their Trafford home and abuse them over a two-year period.
Ward, of Thirsk Avenue, Sale, was finally jailed for four years at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court after admitting two counts of indecent assault.
But his unchecked crimes between October 1994 and February 1997 have destroyed the lives of his victims, leaving them suffering from anxiety and depression.
Katie Shortman, 24, and Dellisa Shortman, 25, have bravely waived their anonymity to speak out in a bid to help other victims of abuse - and expose the authorities who failed to help them.
Judge Maurice Greene told Ward: “These two girls during the 1990s were let down by social services, by the police, and by the Crown Prosecution Service. Had their case been dealt with properly, it’s highly likely that you would have been before the courts many, many years ago and some form of closure may have been available to these two young women a long time ago.”
The authorities failed to stop Ward despite his conviction in 1993 of abusing a four-year-old boy.
The judge listed the other missed opportunities to stop Ward, including: * A police surgeon examination of Dellisa when she was a young girl which showed evidence of abuse; * A police interview with Katie in 1998 in which she told officers her stepfather abused her; * A police interview with Delissa in 1999 when she again complained of abuse; * Reports from school that the girls were showing symptoms of abuse.
In each of these cases no action was taken.
He added: “It really was not until 2011 when they were interviewed as adults that prosecution followed. This was an indication of the change in the prosecution authorities. That can only be for the better.”
He added: “What is clear is that you abused your position as their stepfather. You abused the position of trust you had in that family. Your abuse has had a considerable effect on both these girls. You have ruined a large part of their lives.”
Earlier, the court heard how Ward would send his wife to the shops to have time alone with the girls, grooming them with sweets.
Katherine Pierpoint, defending, said Ward had shown genuine remorse for his actions. She said he appeared a ‘rather pathetic character’, adding that he had alcohol and cannabis addictions and that the period of abuse was during a time of particularly heavy drinking.
He was put on the sex offenders’ register for life.
GMP said in a statement: “These two girls who are now women reported the abuse to Greater Manchester Police and Trafford Council social services in 1998.
“A decision was made to take no further action against Paul Ward in 1999.
“The recommendation to discontinue the case came from a specialist who advised against the inquiry going further and this was considered at the time to be in the best interests of the victims.
“If such a recommendation was made to officers today, it would be challenged before an investigation was finalised.
“When the abuse was reported again in 2011 the case was immediately re-opened and a full investigation commenced. This investigation has led to the successful conviction of Paul Ward.
“GMP has changed the way it investigates crimes against vulnerable people and officers who investigate child abuse and domestic abuse now have a clear structure with dedicated lines of responsibility and ownership.”
Trafford Council said that it would not be appropriate for it to comment on individual cases of this nature It stated that safeguarding children and vulnerable young people has always been a key priority for the Council. Current policies and procedures, together with the strength of its multi-agency working and information sharing continue to ensure Trafford’s effectiveness in helping protect local young people.
* Anyone who has been a victim of rape or sexual assault can contact GMP on 101 or 999 in an emergency. St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre in Manchester, can also be contacted on 101.