Telford abuse: CSE is a national issue, so cut out the guesswork on scale of problem, says force head

Reports on the scale of sexual abuse in Telford – with media claims of up to 1,000 youngsters involved – have been sensationally exaggerated, West Mercia Police maintains.

Mar 14, 2018
By Nick Hudson

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid claimed on Wednesday (March 14) that the “horrific crimes” were able to be perpetrated over a long time because “too many people in authority felt that they shouldn’t say anything because they’d be labelled racist”.

But Superintendent Tom Harding stressed that his force’s officers stopped and engaged with people for a variety of reasons, and the “race of that person does not enter their minds”.

In the wake of the claims in the Sunday Mirror, Telford MP Lucy Allan has renewed her call for a Rotherham-style inquiry – while Telford and Wrekin Council is seeking the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse upgrade the issue to a separate specific review.

Supt Harding stressed that sexual offending across Telford and Wrekin was “virtually identically proportionate to the break-down of society, so it is not one particular section over others and we will tackle it wherever it is”.

He added: “I don’t believe Telford is any worse than lots of places across England and Wales,” rejecting a number of the claims made in the18-month media investigation that suggested child grooming involving “abuse on unprecedented levels” had been endemic since 1981.

West Mercia Police says it is currently dealing with 46 young people who are victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or are at risk of being abused in Telford. Supt Harding tweeted earlier on Wednesday: “CSE is one of the most abhorrent crimes we deal with. I welcome debate, education, understanding. “I don’t welcome guesses and unhelpful headlines about Telford. CSE is a national issue but one locally we are doing everything we can to tackle.”

The Telford commander said the force has learnt a great deal around CSE and had invested large resources in tackling the problem. Last year, government officials from the Home Office spent time visiting the area and “personally paid thanks to the commitment” of the staff working to protect young people at risk from CSE, he said.

“I am confident that, in the main, we do know the scale of CSE,” he added. “Therefore, I significantly dispute the 1,000-plus figure and do feel it is sensationalised. “They’re discussing cases from 20 or 30 years ago, offending back in the 1990s.

“We’ve never said there aren’t cases, there are always cases we are working on and seeking to prosecute.” Supt Harding also disputed claims offenders are predominantly groups of Asian men.

Former Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ chief executive Nazir Afzal led several prosecutions concerning offences in Telford, including one against two brothers, Ahdel and Mubarek Ali, who were jailed for 18 and 14 years respectively for trafficking girls for sex.

There were two of seven men jailed in 2012 as part of West Mercia Police’s Operation Chalice. The force said more than 100 girls could have been targeted by the gang between 2007 and 2009. As Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England from 2011 to 2015, he also oversaw similar high-profile cases in Rochdale and stressed that the convictions were the “tip of the iceberg”.

He says it is possible there were thousands of young girls and boys “being abused in street grooming up and down the country”. Telford and Wrekin Council has reported a rising trend of child sex offending in the local authority’s area.

There were 256 child sex crimes from September 2014 to September 2015 while 128 sexual offences in 2015/16 involved a child under 16. The council’s latest figures, covering 2016/17, recorded 337 reports of concerns about child sexual exploitation involving 224 young people.

More concerning was Telford reported 15.1 cases per 10,000 residents, ahead of both Rochdale (14.1) and Stoke-on-Trent and Rotherham (13.5). Mr Javid said: “Going forward we can never, ever, have a situation that authorities feel that they can’t deal with perpetrators of a crime just because they might be labelled racist or bigoted in any way.”

Related News

Select Vacancies

Chief of Police

Gibraltar Defence Police

Assistant Chief Constables

Scottish Police Authority

Constables on Promotion to Sergeant

Greater Manchester Police

Copyright © 2024 Police Professional