Shropshire Star

Telford & Wrekin Council issues update on how it is tackling Child Sexual Exploitation

Telford & Wrekin Council has taken action over the night-time economy and licenced taxis in response to the Independent Inquiry into Telford Child Sexual Exploitation.

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The inquiry's report, published in July last year, found that child sexual exploitation (CSE) had “thrived unchecked” in the borough for decades and that over 1,000 girls had been exploited.

Tom Crowther QC, who led the inquiry, made 47 recommendations, which have been broken down into 148 actions.

A year on and Telford & Wrekin Council has completed half of the actions (42) which it is solely responsible for (82), with another 13 actions ‘on track’ to be assessed by the independent chair later this month.

The Telford & Wrekin Community Safety Partnership has secured additional funding from West Mercia Police’s Crime Commissioner for taxi marshals and street pastors to provide support for revellers during nights out.

A progress report to be considered by Telford & Wrekin councillors next week says: “Of the actions that are ready to be reviewed, many of them are related to the taxi licensing and night-time economy recommendations made by the inquiry.

“This responsiveness and desire from the council’s licensing team to progress their actions should be commended and has meant greater awareness within the community about the work of the licensing team, how to identify a taxi licensed in Telford and Wrekin and how to make complaints.”

In the year 2022/23 a total of 68 complaints were made about taxi drivers in the borough – with 15 of those licensed by Telford & Wrekin Council.

On conclusion of a complaint the council can suspend, revoke or put conditions on a driver’s taxi licence.

Across the 47 recommendations, five related entirely to the publication of an annual report from the Joint CSE Review Group, a partnership group, required by the recommendations.

The review group met formally for the first time in February ‘to consider initial findings from analysis of incidents of CSE in the borough by West Mercia Police and Telford & Wrekin Council’.

The annual report of the joint CSE review group showed how the council are using police data to help them.

The report states that the council’s Children Abused Through Exploitation (CATE) team and 'CATE pathway' are a ‘core part’ of the Safeguarding Children Board’s response to child sexual exploitation (CSE) and child exploitation (CE) more widely.

In 2022/23 there were 180 contacts relating to 126 children into Family Connect with indicators of CSE.

“Following this process, 29 children or young people were opened to CATE and/or statutory safeguarding services as an open CSE,” the report found.

“An additional three cases were already open to CATE and receiving support; that is, a contact had come in for a child or young person who was already receiving support from CATE or statutory safeguarding services. One case was opened solely to statutory safeguarding.”

Across the 2020/21 to 2022/23 period there were 129 CSE cases open to either CATE and/or statutory safeguarding with 91 of those now closed.

The report added: “West Mercia Police confirmed that all cases were known to their Child Exploitation Team and that 96% made a disclosure of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and/or sexual assault to the police.

“From this, 181 crimes were investigated with 120 suspects identified. Fifteen suspects were identified in more than one criminal investigation relating to sex offences. To date, four (2%) of suspects have been charged or summonsed.”

The report adds that the reason of charges not being brought was that the victim no longer felt able to proceed in 62 (34%) of cases and 41 cases (23%) were ‘halted’ because of evidential ‘difficulties’.

To improve the outcomes of rape and serious sexual offence investigations, West Mercia Police have recruited seven new detective sergeants.

Of the 181 crimes reported, West Mercia Police said that 35% of these happened at a private property and 20% online.

“This is the first-time that analysis of this breadth has been undertaken to explore CSE in Telford & Wrekin,” the report adds.

“Its development has strengthened data sharing and analysis between the council, schools, colleges and West Mercia Police.”

As part of the report’s analysis 10 ‘actions’ have been suggested as part of the report which includes research and further work to profile suspects to understand their ‘modus operandi’.

Through the recommendations the council has carried out a survey of third sector companies which provide support of victims of CSE to understand the ‘scale and scope’ of their report.

A training package has been delivered across employees from Telford & Wrekin Council, NHS and West Mercia Police.

Telford & Wrekin councillors will discuss the CSE inquiry update at their full council meeting next Thursday.

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