Shropshire

Inquiry call over Telford child sex exploitation

Image illustrating child abuse Image copyright Christopher Furlong
Image caption A new investigation claims hundreds of children could have been abused in Telford over decades

Calls are being made for a new inquiry into child sexual exploitation in a town following further allegations.

A Sunday Mirror investigation claimed hundreds of girls were abused in Telford, Shropshire, dating back to the 1980s.

The town's MP, Lucy Allan, said she would raise the issue in Parliament and is calling for an independent inquiry.

West Mercia Police said it took all allegations "extremely seriously" but the latest information was "not new".

The Sunday Mirror gathered allegations of abuse, said to include cases involving girls as young as 11, who were drugged, beaten and raped.

Assistant Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, Martin Evans, said tackling offences of child sexual exploitation was a priority.

He said the issue has gained prominence in Telford because of high profile cases, like Operation Chalice in 2013.

But he claimed a number of changes had been made, with the Home Office and Ofsted conducting inspections to see how agencies in Telford are working to tackle the issue.

He added: "Tackling child sexual exploitation is, and has been for some time, the number one priority for police in Telford.

"We have specialist officers and resources in place tackling this type of offending, and we are committed to using our resources and technology to pursue anyone who sexually offends against children - whether that offending took place today, last week or years ago."

He urged anyone who felt they have been a victim of such crimes to come forward to police.

Image caption MP Lucy Allan said there needs to be an independent review into child sexual exploitation in Telford

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Shropshire John Campion said "this horrific crime is happening in our communities now and has been for many years" and that it was a "continued area of focus" by police.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in England and Wales has confirmed it has plans to look into Telford as part of its investigation into child sexual exploitation by groups and gangs.

The inquiry was set up in 2014 and is being led by Prof Alexis Jay, who headed the inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Councillor Shaun Davies, intends to write to the Home Office to ask them to bring the review forward.

Image copyright Telford & Wrekin Council
Image caption Telford & Wrekin Council leader Shaun Davies said he will be calling for the IICSA to come to Telford

Figures provided by the council show that between 2013 and 2016, there were 303 cases referred to its specialist Children Abused Through Exploitation (CATE) project, a team that deals specifically with victims of this type of crime.

Conservative Ms Allan said the latest reports were "serious and shocking" and she hoped the decision in 2016 not to conduct an independent review into the problem would be reconsidered.

She said: "The IICSA will not investigate whether any of the authorities in Telford should be accountable.

"That is why we must have an independent inquiry into what happened in Telford; such an inquiry is outside the current scope of the IICSA."

A spokeswoman for the NSPCC said it was "vital" action was taken against these crimes to prevent them from happening in future.

She added: "The scale of the problem of child sexual exploitation in Telford and Wrekin is deeply concerning.

"Child sexual exploitation is a pernicious crime which ruins lives and victims must be able to speak out in the knowledge they will be taken seriously and action will be taken."

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