Telford police: Child sexual exploitation remains 'number one priority'
Police in Telford have again reiterated that tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the area is still their "number one priority".
Speaking in a press conference outside Malinsgate Police Station, assistant chief constable (ACC) for West Mercia Police Martin Evans, also said that they were aware of all the cases that Sunday Mirror had directly referenced and the information is "not new to the police".
It comes as more than 6,300 people signed an online petition calling for Telford to have its own independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation. The petition has been set up by one of the victims of the Telford ring, who released a book in 2016, writing under the pseudonym Holly Archer, telling her story of the case called I Never Gave My Consent.
The petition states: "Telford has been described as having the worst child grooming scandal ever seen.
"There has been evidence and proof of children being groomed and exploited for at least 40 years, which is expected to have created 1,000 victims throughout that period.
"Being covered by the national inquiry is not adequate, Telford needs its own independent inquiry into CSE, people need to be held accountable for not acting and protecting vulnerable people and children.
"A specific independent inquiry into CSE in Telford is the only way Telford will ever see significant changes in the attitudes of the authorities."
But ACC Mr Evans said: "Tackling CSE 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.
"The issue of offending against children has risen in profile as a result of a number of high profile cases, including Operation Chalice in 2013. Since that time, we have been continuously focused on this area, and work very closely with our communities to ensure that people know what to look for and have the confidence to report any issues they become aware of.
"We also work very closely with health and local authority professionals as the Community Safety Partnership to ensure a co-ordinated response to these challenging issues.
"Our approach has been subject to independent scrutiny. Last year the Home Office spent time visiting the area and personally paid thanks to the commitment of our staff working to protect young people at risk from sexual exploitation. In 2016, Ofsted said that partners were working well to tackle this issue.
"Yet we are not complacent, and would welcome any further scrutiny of our work in this area and new ideas to help us tackle these crimes.
"We are aware of all the cases the Sunday Mirror newspaper has directly referenced. This information is not new to the police."
He added: "It is really important to me that anyone who feels they are a victim of such crimes, or that they know someone who is, can come forward – knowing they will be taken seriously and will be looked after, and that we will go wherever the evidence takes us to investigate these crimes.
"If you don't want to speak to the police, you can also speak to a number of other agencies such as Childline on 0800 11 11 or the Say Something campaign on 116 000. Don't stay silent – say something, and we will act."
To view the petition, visit change.org/p/uk-parliament-telford-needs-an-independent-inquiry-into-child-sexual-exploitation