Shropshire

Taxis among focus of Telford's CSE inquiry

Telford Image copyright Gavin Dickson
Image caption The independent inquiry was commissioned by Telford & Wrekin Council in 2018

An inquiry into the extent of child sexual exploitation in a town said to have had up to 1,000 victims since the 1980s is to probe the role of the local taxi industry and its licensing.

The Telford investigation's terms of reference were published on Tuesday.

Among them is also a spotlight on whether previous looks at CSE by the local council came to "adequate conclusions".

Tuesday's document does not give detail as to why taxis will come under focus.

The independent inquiry was announced last year following a newspaper's report that the historical scope of CSE in the town was huge.

Police disputed suggestions the number of victims across the last four decades could be as high as 1,000, but said local officers were working with more than 40 young people who were either CSE victims or considered at risk.

While the investigation's findings are not expected to be published until 2021, the terms of reference reveal an inquiry centred on "the nature, extent and patterns" of CSE in Telford, along with the particular issues in its sights.

Image caption The years under review in Telford have been set between 1995 and 2019

According to the document - set to be presented to Telford and Wrekin Council later - areas to be examined include "the local taxi industry and taxi licensing, and the impact that has had on CSE".

While the report does not expand on the point, it emerged in March that the wider Shropshire Council was to introduce more rigorous checks on taxi drivers in the hope of preventing CSE.

Tougher tests were also set for Telford and Wrekin, although the authority did not draw a link to CSE when the rollout was announced.

Taxi drivers in Telford have also received training in how to spot signs of CSE.

The document further states the inquiry will examine the response of third party organisations to CSE cases "including but not limited to" Telford and Wrekin Council, the local safeguarding board, police, and local NHS bodies.

In addition, the years under review have been set between 1995 and 2019 - the starting point being a decade after the earliest period featured in the newspaper story.

Stating the local authority was formed in 1998, Tuesday's report said "due to availability of documentation and the fact that practices will have moved on, it will be more difficult to make meaningful conclusions for earlier periods of time".

In terms of geographical scope, the inquiry is interested in victims living or studying in the town, or people brought in for exploitation from outside areas.

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