Council to call for independent public inquiry into Telford abuse claims

The leader of Telford and Wrekin Council will call for the Home Secretary to launch an independent public inquiry into child sexual exploitation amid claims of up to 1,000 abuse victims since 1981.

Labour Councillor Shaun Davies said the council has "nothing to hide" after allegations of abuse - including cases involving girls as young as 11 drugged, beaten and raped - were gathered by the Sunday Mirror.

Police officers investigating child exploitation in the area have said their approach has been "subject to independent scrutiny" after they were visited by the Home Office last year.

Allegations are said to have been mishandled by authorities, with many perpetrators going unpunished, while it is claimed similar abuse is continuing in the area.

One victim - "Holly" - told BBC's Victoria Derbyshire Show she went to a sexual health clinic twice a week for three years to get the morning-after pill.

She said: "I was in cars that were stopped and searched by the police with older men. It was never questioned why I was in there or who I was.

"My name was never asked and I just think if they had been more proactive at points like that things could have changed earlier."

Lucy Allan, Conservative MP for Telford (PA)
Lucy Allan, Conservative MP for Telford (PA)

Conservative Telford MP Lucy Allan told MPs young white working class girls are being traded for sex in "a routine way" on Tuesday during a Westminster Hall debate on the rights of victims of crime.

Seven men were jailed in 2013 following Operation Chalice, a police inquiry into child prostitution in the Telford area.

Cllr Davies said: "I grew up in Telford and was at school when many of the horrific cases reported over the last few days took place. As a resident, a contemporary of those who suffered and now as a parent, these stories sicken me.

"The way forward must now be a Government-commissioned independent inquiry, with terms of reference set by Government - any such inquiry commissioned by local agencies like the council or police could be seen as not being impartial.

"We have nothing to hide and have been transparent throughout - since I became leader two years ago."

He added: "I accept and regret that some historic practices were not effective and some of the incidents referred to in recent media reports pre-date the council."

We're working with partners to support National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day (18 March) - has more info on the signs to look out for and what to do

-- West Mercia Police (@WMerciaPolice) March 13, 2018

Assistant Chief Constable for West Mercia Police Martin Evans said: "Tackling CSE is, and has been for some time, the number one priority for police in Telford.

"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."

ACC Evans added: "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.

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