Shropshire Star

Report into child sexual exploitation in Telford 'could find extensive failures'

"Extensive failures" in the way child sexual exploitation is tackled elsewhere in the country could also be identified in Telford, an MP has warned.

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Telford MP Lucy Allan is fearing the worst when a long-awaited report into child sexual exploitation in the town is released "shortly".

A national report into CSE was published on Tuesday, finding extensive failings among councils, police forces and "a failure hear the voices of victims".

Telford was not included in the scope of the work for the national inquiry, which chose to examine a sample of towns which had not hit the headlines.

It featured harrowing testimony from more than 30 young witnesses across six case study areas - Bristol, Durham, St Helens, Swansea, Tower Hamlets and Warwickshire.

The report found that child victims - some of whom reported being raped, abused, and in one case forced to perform sex acts on a group of 23 men while held at gunpoint - were often blamed by authorities for the ordeals they suffered while some were even slapped with criminal records for offences closely linked to their sexual exploitation.

Ms Allan said she welcomed the report's findings, adding: "It has found extensive failings by councils and police forces, denial of the scale of the problem, a flawed insistence that CSE is an historic issue, political correctness when recording crimes, and a failure hear the voices of victims particularly those from more vulnerable backgrounds."

The inquiry said there was "a flawed assumption" that child sexual exploitation was "on the wane", with councils and police forces denying the scale of the problem, despite evidence to the contrary.

Lucy Allan

Ms Allan added: "This was why in 2016 I fought so hard for a separate inquiry into CSE in Telford, as we knew at that time the national inquiry would exclude Telford.

"The Telford inquiry into CSE is due to report shortly. It seems entirely plausible that the same or similar failings will be identified by the Telford report."

She added: "All too often those in power, cannot see that the culture and attitude of their own organisations play a huge role in the failure to identify these horrendous crimes and failure to support victims.

"Cross-party campaigners in Parliament are hoping to secure an urgent question on this issue as soon as the Speaker will allow."

Last week a demonstration led by far-right activist Tommy Robinson was held in Telford, where a film about CSE was played on a large screen.

Ms Allan said there delays to the CSE inquiry in Telford had added to tensions in the area.

She said: "The delays to the CSE inquiry, the initial refusal to hold an inquiry and the subsequent unwillingness of some officials to cooperate in the inquiry has created tensions within the community.

"It is important we continue to put victims front and centre and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The protests and policing them must not detract from this important work and the underlying concerns."

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said they are awaiting the report and it would be "inappropriate to comment at this time.":

The spokesperson said: "There is currently an independent investigation underway regarding child sexual exploitation in Telford and we await the report, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this at this time. However, I can confirm that we have fully engaged with the enquiry and continue to offer support to victims."

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