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TV special to expose sex ring investigation in Shropshire

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The horrific abuse and sexual exploitation of schoolgirls by a group of Asian men in Shropshire – and the problems facing police officers in bringing them to justice without being accused of racism – is to be exposed in a hard-hitting TV documentary.

Channel Four's Dispatches team was given access to Telford police during Operation Chalice, one of the country's largest ever child sex abuse investigations.

And the results, including candid interviews with many of the leading detectives, are revealed in an hour-long special, The Hunt For Britain's Sex Gangs, at 9pm on Thursday.

Seven men were convicted after judges heard distressing evidence from four young women, who were aged 13 to 16, when they were abused between 2007 and 2009. The leading players in the network of abusers – almost all of Pakistani origin – were brothers Ahdel and Mubarek Ali, from Regent Street, Wellington.

Both men, who variously sexually abused, raped, trafficked for prostitution and controlled child prostitution, involving four of the teenage victims, received lengthy sentences after an eight-week trial.

Peter Heneghan, for Channel Four, said: "Three years ago Telford police allowed cameras to start filming what was to become one of the biggest child sex abuse cases in the UK. Operation Chalice, encompassed over 100 victims, and around 200 suspects.

"The Hunt for Britain's Sex Gangs follows, with unprecedented access, a live police investigation, showing just how difficult it is to secure justice for victims of sexual abuse."

He added: "Gaining the trust of victims – who as a result of the grooming process, don't see themselves as victims – is key to the success of the case, but it takes months for the police to win their trust and keep them on board as they prepare for the harrowing process of going to court.

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"As the police work with the victims, they begin to understand a vicious cycle of grooming, which starts with flattery and friendship, then moves onto a more overtly sexual relationship, and then finally becomes exploitative as the groomers pass the girls around their networks."

Mr Heneghan said the programme examined how Telford Police also had to face the reality that the men who were perpetrators in this case were all British Pakistanis.

"As one of the DCI's in charge of launching the initial arrests says: 'How do you deal with that, without being accused of being racist? My view is this: I've got a bunch of criminals, I don't care what background they come from, I don't care about anything else about them other than that they are gang-raping young girls'."

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