Three Girls: TV drama hailed as 'outstanding' and 'a landmark'

TV drama Three Girls was “extremely true to life” and “a landmark film”, according to figures who were involved in the child sex grooming case.

The programme told the real story of abuse and then failings by authorities in Rochdale between 2008 and 2012.

The portrayal of the real people was “outstanding”, according to lawyer Richard Scorer, who has represented the girl known as Holly in the show.

He said: “In terms of character acting I think it’s extremely true to life.”

Mr Scorer represented “Holly” in a civil case following the criminal trial that saw nine men convicted of running a child sexual exploitation ring in the Greater Manchester town.

He told BBC News: “In terms of awareness raising of the issue it’s an outstanding piece of drama.”

It was difficult for the producers to “delve into the complexities of the grooming process” but “they’ve done it as well as you could do in this sort of programme”.

Nazir Afzal, who was chief prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west of England at the time, described the programme as “true and terrifying in equal measure”.

He told BBC News: “Three Girls was a landmark film for a landmark case. It did not minimise the impact of the crimes on the victims and was a harrowing but ultimately rewarding watch.

“Brilliantly acted, written and directed, it can only have enhanced awareness of child protection issues in the 21st Century and, by doing so, offered hope and confidence to others who may have suffered similar abuse.”

Maxine Peake played Sara Rowbotham, Rochdale’s Crisis Intervention Team co-ordinator at the time, who repeatedly tried to raise the alarm.

Ms Rowbotham told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme: “It was really accurate. It was absolutely the truth.

“What the writer was able to do was combine all our truths… the parents, the young people… Maxine played me but I was actually a combination of the team I managed at the time. Everything Maxine said was a true reflection and a true scenario.”

Many viewers were incredulous to discover just before the end credits of Thursday’s final episode that Ms Rowbotham was made redundant after the events.

‘Soul destroying’

But the drama was widely praised on social media.

Emma Jackson, who wrote a book about her experiences of being exploited in Rotherham, wrote: “There is no words to describe #ThreeGirls its been a hard 3 days. Well done to Holly, Amber & Ruby. There is 1000’s of them across the UK.”

ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart said: “#ThreeGirls The closing shots of the three victims must be among the strongest I have ever seen. Soul destroying. A brilliant docu-drama.”

TV blogger Elliot Gonzalez wrote: “#ThreeGirls is one of the most harrowing dramas I have ever seen on television, but a necessary watch. Well done to all involved.”

‘Too timid’

But in The Telegraph, Ben Lawrence wrote: “I can’t help feeling that the series fell slightly short of expectations. Real-life dramas are a TV trend but to succeed they have to tell us something new and I’m not sure Three Girls did.”

The drama didn’t explore the mainly Pakistani perpetrators’ stories fully enough and the BBC was “too timid” to address their backgrounds directly, he said.

“Only briefly did we see what might have caused them to treat underage white girls as if they were prostitutes.

“A braver, more provocative, more pioneering work would have got to the root of the problem and made men such as ‘Daddy’ its focal point.”


Look back at the real story behind Three Girls:


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