Telford sex-crime claims 'sensationalised', says police chief

Telford's police chief has denied the town has a specific problem with child sexual exploitation, saying it is no different to anywhere else.

Superintendent Tom Harding
Superintendent Tom Harding

Superintendent Tom Harding accused the Sunday Mirror of "sensationalist" reporting, after it said 1,000 children may have been abused by grooming gangs. He said he had no idea where the figure had come from.

"I don't believe Telford has a discernible problem compared to other towns," he told the Shropshire Star.

"Child sexual exploitation will be taking place all over the country, and Telford is not different to anywhere else.

"I'm confident we understand the scale of the problem here, and we have got the resources here to deal with it."

Mr Harding said the police now had a dedicated team of officers which worked closely with the local authority to ensure the victims of exploitation received support.

Operation Chalice

Mr Harding said the West Mercia force had also learned a lot from Operation Chalice, an undercover police investigation which led to the prosecution of seven men for sexual exploitation of children in the town.

He said that as a result of the investigation, Telford was now at the forefront in tackling sex crimes against children and spotting signs of abuse.

"I am really confident that, working with the local authority, we would quickly identify any signs of organised criminality," he said.

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Mr Harding said the claim in the Sunday Mirror that there may have been 1,000 victims was not a figure he recognised.

"Child sexual exploitation is a crime that is under-reported, but I don't know where they got those figures from," he said.

Mr Harding said the recent rise in the number of sex offences reported to police was a sign that people are more confident in coming forward than in the past. He said of the sex offences reported to the police, 35 per cent were more than a year old.

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