Maxine Peake, Lesley Sharp to star in BBC One drama, Three Girls

New drama tells the true story of Rochdale victims

BBC One has commissioned Three Girls, a new drama based on the true stories of victims of grooming and sexual abuse in Rochdale, in the five years between 2008 and 2012.

Written by Nicole Taylor (The C Word), Three Girls tells the story of how the girls were groomed, how they were ignored by the authorities directly responsible for protecting them, and how they eventually made themselves heard. Maxine Peake (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Lesley Sharp (Scott And Bailey) star as two women who were instrumental in getting the girls’ voices heard.

Other cast includes Paul Kaye, Lisa Riley and Jill Halfpenny as parents of the girls, alongside Ace Bhatti as Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West. They will be joined by Olivia Hill, Ria Zmitrowicz, Molly Windsor, Simon Nagra, Qas Hamid and Wasim Zakir.

Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC TV Channels and iPlayer, says: “BBC One has the ability to tell challenging and timely stories of national significance. The team behind the award-winning Five Daughters have spent three years talking to the girls, unravelling the shocking scale of abuse, the horror of what they’ve been through and the enormous courage it’s taken for them to speak out.”

Nicole Taylor, writer, says, “Whatever I thought I knew about what had happened in Rochdale, I knew nothing until I met the girls and their families. Listening to them was the beginning of understanding – not just of the terrible suffering they experienced, but of the courage it took to persist and persist over years, in telling authorities who didn’t want to know, and ultimately participate in the court proceedings that brought justice.”

Philippa Lowthorpe, director, says: “It’s both a privilege and a responsibility to be allowed to tell this powerful, true story. I have huge respect for the girls and their families for sharing their experiences with us. It’s through their courage in speaking out that we can try to understand the devastating effects of grooming. During the research, not only was it incredibly moving hearing the stories of the girls and their families, but also the experiences of those who fought to protect the girls and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Nazir Afzal, former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, says: “The Rochdale case was both groundbreaking and heartbreaking. It forced every agency to look at their ways of working afresh and the creation of the first guidance for prosecutors, police, and local authorities. The case caused seismic and long-overdue change in the way trials involving vulnerable victims were dealt with. At last, victims had a voice.”

Three Girls, which begins filming this week, is made by BBC Studios production in association with Studio Lambert with the full cooperation of the victims and their families.