Speed Reads

Telford inquiry: unease about race meant mass sex abuse ignored

Three-year inquiry described police inaction over abuse as a 'shocking failure'

Authorities ignored the grooming and sexual exploitation of more than 1,000 children over decades in Telford because of a “nervousness about race”, an independent inquiry has found.

The abuse in the Shropshire town dates back to the 1980s, said the report, which was published on Tuesday. Teachers and youth workers were “discouraged” from reporting “obvious evidence” that police dismissed as child prostitution. 

West Mercia Police was apprehensive about investigating the alleged abusers, which included men from Pakistani and Asian backgrounds, to avoid being labelled racist, the report found. The three-year independent inquiry found that children were often blamed instead of the culprits. 

Seven men were jailed in 2013 after a police inquiry into child prostitution, named Operation Chalice, took place in the Telford area.

The report describes the authorities’ “blind eye” to the abuse as a “shocking failure”, while the inquiry’s chair Tom Crowther QC said the police’s inaction “emboldened” offenders, allowing the exploitation to continue for years “without concerted response”.

A Sunday Mirror investigation in 2018 was the first to reveal that up to 1,000 children were victims of exploitation in the town over 40 years, an estimate Crowther now said was an “entirely measured, reasonable and nonsensational assessment”. The Mirror described this week’s report as a “bombshell inquiry” and that the “scandal” was “one of Britain’s worst”.

Lucy Allan, the MP for Telford, told the BBC that the report was “damning” and “devastating”. She said that victims “weren’t heard” and they “weren’t taken seriously and that should never have happened.”

West Mercia Police assistant chief constable Richard Cooper said the force wanted to say “sorry to the survivors and all those affected by child sexual exploitation in Telford.” He said that there were “no findings of corruption” in the police at the time, but added that their actions “fell far short” of what victims needed and it was “unacceptable”.

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