West Mercia Police chief hits out at 'simply not true' claims regarding Telford sex abuse
A senior police officer has defended his force's record in tackling sex abuse in Telford, amid new allegations.
West Mercia Police is accused of not taking court orders against suspects because it was "too much trouble".
The allegations were made in the national press at the weekend, quoting an unnamed officer who claimed he was "horrified" at the lack of action.
Seven men were jailed in 2013 following a three-year police investigation called Operation Chalice, which revealed an organised sex ring operating in the town.
But new claims have been made that there may be up to 1,000 victims of sex grooming in the town going back several decades.
The figure of 1,000 has been described by Telford Superintendent Tom Harding as "sensationised".
And today his colleague, Assistant Chief Constable Martin Evans, said new claims that officers did not pursue civil court orders against child sexual exploitation because it was "too much trouble" were simply not true.
He said: "The 'Risk of Sexual Harm Orders' were seriously considered as part of Operation Chalice and the decision not to take them out was made for a number of reasons.
"Legal advice identified that the cases did not meet the requirements for the orders to be granted. The orders require there to be a current risk.
"In the cases concerned, any offending believed to have been committed was not recent at the time of considering the orders, and there was no evidence of the individuals re-offending during the course of the Operation Chalice investigation, which ran for three years."
He continued: "Had the individuals concerned contended the orders, there would have been a requirement for victims to give evidence in court, furthering their ordeal.
"While these orders were not sought, other measures were put in place to make sure that those considered a potential threat as a result of the Operation Chalice investigations were closely monitored and reviewed and this continues to be the case today. Should information come to light about offences being committed at any time we will take robust action.
"I will stress again that we take any allegations of these horrific crimes extremely seriously. We work closely with a range of partners to tackle these offenders and we are absolutely committed to following the evidence wherever our investigations take us to bring the guilty to justice. We have specialist officers and resources in place to investigate these crimes and support the victims. I would urge anyone who has been a victim of these crimes, or suspects that a child is being exploited, to please come forward so we can take action."
Telford MP Lucy Allan has led calls for an independent inquiry into claims that sex abuse in the town was far more widespread than that dealt with by Operation Chalice.
Telford & Wrekin Council says it wants any inquiry to be set up set up by the government so that it can be seen to be independent. It has also defended the record of social services, pointing to a positive Ofsted report post-Operation Chalice.
The council says it is seeking talks with the Home Office to discuss the best way forward.