Fears over race relations appear to have played a part in senior police thinking when tackling grooming gangs, the report into child sex exploitation in Manchester suggests.

The 'assurance report' reviewing how Greater Manchester Police (GMP) dealt with the street grooming of vulnerable teenage girls, perpetrated disproportionately by Asian men, states officers were aware of "many sensitive community issues" around policing in south Manchester in 2002 and 2003.

The report, by Malcolm Newsam, a renowned child care expert, and Gary Ridgeway, a former detective superintendent with Cambridgeshire Police, concludes vulnerable girls in care were groomed and abused in "plain sight", with police and Manchester City Council failing to act after shelving a major investigation to tackle the problem, Operation Augusta, in 2005.

The report states senior officers were aware of a Channel 4 TV programme, Edge Of The City, broadcast in August 2004, about a similar problem in Keighley, West Yorkshire and it was thought this could potentially raise media and political interest in any similar problem occurring in Manchester, particularly as it involved accusations of grooming schoolchildren.

"Concerns were expressed about the risk of proactive tactics or the incitement of racial hatred," the report stated.

GMP had at that time recently dealt with an unrelated case involving Kurdish people in the south Manchester that had created community tensions and Operation Augusta was to examine accusations against another minority group.

However, a Detective Superintendent was emphatic that any concerns about creating further community tensions did not influence any of his investigative decisions, but the impact "clearly had to be considered" by senior officers in the gold command group.

The report quotes an unnamed GMP detective constable, involved in the arrest and jailing of one child sex offender, who was not of Asian heritage.

It quotes him saying: "He was grooming kids, the demographics didn't fit as it was a prosperous middle-class area, and they were well-to-do kids. They weren't from the original tranche of children that were in children's homes.

"What had a massive input was the offending target group were predominantly Asian males and we were told to try and get other ethnicities."

By Pat Hurst