Telford child sexual exploitation scandal

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The Telford child sexual exploitation scandal was a scandal in the United Kingdom. Originally, a group of men were convicted of grooming local children for sex between 2007 and 2009 in Telford in the English county of Shropshire.[1][2][3] While media reports had suggested 100 or more girls had been affected[4] and around 200 perpetrators were suspected,[5] the Sunday Mirror reported in March 2018 that up to 1,000 girls may have been abused, with some even murdered, in incidents dating back to the 1970s.[6] Social workers, a spokesman for Together Against Grooming, and police, all cast doubt on this report, denying that Telford had a "discernible problem compared to other towns" or that specific groups of children had been targeted, or that the offenders were predominantly groups of Asian men, adding: "What I would say is sexual offending across Telford and Wrekin is virtually identically proportionate to the breakdown of society."

According to the Home Office, as of 2015, Telford had the highest rate of sex crimes against children of any town or city in the United Kingdom.[7] Telford has a population of just under 170,000 people.[8]

A report from a three-year inquiry into the child sexual exploitation was released in July 2022. It revealed more than 1,000 girls had been abused over a 40 year period, and that agencies blamed victims for the abuse they suffered, not the perpetrators, and exploitation was not investigated because of "nervousness about race". The report made 47 recommendations for improvement by agencies involved. West Mercia Police apologised "unequivocally" for past events as well as Telford and Wrekin Council. Victims were often blamed for "child prostitution" and offenders were emboldened by the lack of police action.[9][10]

Overview[edit]

In a series of trials stretching over two years and concluding in May 2013,[11] seven men were convicted of sexual offences against four girls aged 13 to 16. The offences included rape, controlling child prostitution, causing child prostitution, and trafficking for the purpose of prostitution.[12][4]

In March 2018, investigations by the Sunday Mirror alleged that the extent of the Telford grooming gang was far more vast than had previously been believed, with claims of up to 1,000 girls, most of them white,[6] having been victims of trafficking, drugging, beating, rape and even murder. Similar with other grooming gang cases, it was alleged that the authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of being seen as racist,[13] with police having known about gang activities since the early 1980s.[citation needed]

The MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, demanded an independent inquiry, stating, "There must now be an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Telford so that our community can have absolute confidence in the authorities."[14]

Superintendent Tom Harding, the chief of West Mercia police, "significantly disputed" the figures claimed by the Sunday Mirror. "I don't believe Telford has a discernible problem compared to other towns," he told the Shropshire Star. "Child sexual exploitation will be taking place all over the country, and Telford is not different to anywhere else. I'm confident we understand the scale of the problem here, and we have got the resources here to deal with it."[15] He added: "What I would say is sexual offending across Telford and Wrekin is virtually identically proportionate to the breakdown of society."[15]

The claim of "mostly white girls being targeted due to their background" has also been significantly disputed. Ansar Ali, a spokesman for Together Against Grooming, said he had seen evidence about the background of those affected. He said: "A study on this issue was done by the Office of the Children's Commissioner which dated back to 2013 and, according to that research, a third of victims were felt to be from a non-white background or black minority ethnic background."[16] A Telford social worker also reiterated this view. "It isn't only girls that are exploited, boys can be exploited in exactly the same way through grooming," she said. "We work with an age range of 13 to 19-year-olds, we have females and we have males we support. We have young people from all different backgrounds, it is not just targeting young girls through working class."[16]

Harding also disputed claims that offenders were predominantly groups of Asian men, adding: "What I would say is sexual offending across Telford and Wrekin is virtually identically proportionate to the breakdown of society, so it is not one particular section over others and we will tackle it wherever it is."[17]

Operation Chalice[edit]

Location of Shropshire

West Mercia Police set up "Operation Chalice" to investigate allegations that local girls were being groomed. Officers believe that up to 100 girls were affected between 2007 and 2009.[4]

According to a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation, "The Hunt for Britain's Sex Gangs" (2013), police were told that men in Telford would "ejaculate and then urinate in children's mouths". There were also allegations of "gang-rape by queues of men while girls were held hostage for hours, sometimes days—all the while being forced to listen to the screams of girls in other rooms with other men".[18][5][19]

Convictions[edit]

2012 convictions[edit]

Name Age Conviction Sentence
Ahdel Ali 25 "one charge of rape, 11 charges of sexual activity with a child, three charges of controlling child prostitution, one of inciting child prostitution, a charge of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity and meeting a child after grooming" 18 years[4]
Mubarek "Max" Ali 29 "four charges of controlling child prostitution, two of trafficking in the UK for sexual exploitation and a charge of causing child prostitution" 14 years[4]
Mohammed Islam Choudhrey 54 "paying for sex with a Telford schoolgirl" 2 years 6 months[4]
Mohammed Ali Sultan 26 "having sex with two teenage girls, one of whom was 13 years old" 7 years[4]
Mohammed Younis 61 "allowing his flat to be used as a brothel by allowing a man to have sex with a girl who was being controlled as a prostitute" 2 years 6 months[4]
Mahroof Khan 35 "having sex with a 15-year-old girl" 2 years 6 months[4]
Tanveer Ahmed 40 "controlling a child prostitute" 2 years 6 months[4]

2019 convictions[edit]

Name Age Conviction Sentence
Amjad Hussain 38 Indecent assault 4 years 6 months
Mohammad Rizwan 37 Indecent assault 5 years 6 months
Mohammed Ali Sultan 33 Rape and three counts of indecent assault Eight years with an extended licence of two years

Inquiry[edit]

Call for independent inquiry[edit]

On 26 October 2016, the Conservative MP for Telford, Lucy Allan, called for an independent inquiry.[20] She said she had a meeting with a victim of the abuse, who told her that many of the worst offenders had not been prosecuted and were still living in the area. Allan said that she would be asking the then prime minister, Theresa May, to take action.[21]

Investigations[edit]

The Telford case was one of several cases which prompted investigations looking into the claim that "the majority of the perpetrators have been British Pakistani"; the first was by the think tank Quilliam, which released a report in December 2017 entitled "Group Based Child Sexual Exploitation – Dissecting Grooming Gangs", which claimed 84% of offenders were of Pakistani heritage.[2] However this report was fiercely criticised as having an unscientific nature and poor methodology by a child sexual exploitation expert Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail, in their paper "Failing Victims, Fuelling Hate: Challenging the Harms of the 'Muslim grooming gangs' Narrative" which was published in January 2020.[22][23]

A further investigation carried out by the Home Office, the findings of which were published in December 2020, showed that child sexual exploitation groups were most commonly composed of white men and not British Pakistani men. It reports: "Research has found that group-based child sexual exploitation offenders are most commonly white. Some studies suggest an overrepresentation of black and Asian offenders relative to the demographics of national populations. However, it is not possible to conclude that this is representative of all group-based CSE offending."[24]

Independent inquiry and report[edit]

A report that resulted from an independent inquiry chaired by Tom Crowther QC was released on 12 July 2022.[25] The report found that more than 1,000 girls had been abused over a 40 year period, and their abuse was ignored for decades due to "nervousness about race" in the belief that investigation against Asian men would inflame "racial tensions". It found that teachers and social workers were discouraged from reporting child sexual abuse, and authorities tended to blame the children instead of the perpetrators, dismissing reports of child exploitation as "child prostitution".[9][10] The report also concluded that information was not properly shared between agencies.[26]

Speaking after the publication of the report, West Mercia Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Richard Cooper said he was embarrassed to acknowledge the failures of the past, but insisted there was now a very different approach. "The victims are seen as victims and we are absolutely dedicated to the protection of children," he told reporters. "There was not the cohesion that there is today. We have set up teams incorporating police and other agencies."[27]

See also[edit]

  • Murder of the Lowe family – 2000 murder of a child sexual abuse victim and her family in Telford, later brought up to scare other victims into silence[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bird, Steve (9 December 2017). "Grooming gangs of Muslim men failed to integrate into British society". The Daily Telegraph.
  2. ^ a b Barnes, Tom (10 December 2017). "British-Pakistani researchers say grooming gangs are 84% Asian". The Independent. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  3. ^ Burden, Elizabeth (11 December 2017). "Grooming gang study reveals 84% are Asian". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Operation Chalice: Child sex abuse case concludes", BBC News, 10 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b "TV special to expose sex ring investigation in Shropshire". Shropshire Star. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b Sommerlad, Nick; McKelvie, Geraldine (11 March 2018). "Britain's 'worst ever' child grooming scandal exposed: Hundreds of young girls raped, beaten, sold for sex and some even KILLED". Sunday Mirror. The vast majority of those targeted were young white girls but teenagers from the Pakistani community also fell victim.
  7. ^ Bulman, May (4 September 2016). "Town council accused of 'whitewashing' its own investigation into child sex abuse". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Population characteristics". Telford and Wreckin Council Website. Telford and Wrekin is home to some 169,400 people living in 73,400 households. June 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Telford child sex abuse went on for generations, inquiry finds". BBC. 12 July 2022.
  10. ^ a b Murray, Jessica (12 July 2022). "Over 1,000 children in Telford were sexually exploited, inquiry finds". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "Horror of Telford girls' sex abuse ordeal". The Shropshire Star. 10 May 2013. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Telford faces up to child sex abuse cases", BBC News, 10 May 2013.
  13. ^ Sommerlad, Nick; McKelvie, Geraldine; Rodger, James (11 March 2018). "Child grooming scandal exposed in Midland town - with claims hundreds raped, beaten, sold for sex and even killed". Birmingham Live. Retrieved 11 March 2018. Authorities failed to keep details of abusers from Asian communities for fear of 'racism'
  14. ^ "Telford MP in new call for inquiry into 'extremely shocking' abuse in the town". The Jersey Evening Post. 11 March 2018.
  15. ^ a b Andrews, Mark (14 March 2018). "Telford sex-crime claims 'sensationalised', says police chief". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  16. ^ a b "Telford chief disputes abuse scale reports". BBC News. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  17. ^ Johnston, Neil (14 March 2018). "Telford child sex abuse claims 'sensationalised', says police chief". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 16 March 2018.
  18. ^ "The Hunt for Britain's Sex Gangs". Channel 4. 22 May 2013. Archived from the original on 8 June 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2013.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  19. ^ "Film | True Vision". truevisiontv.com. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  20. ^ "MP Lucy Allan calls for Telford child sex abuse inquiry". BBC News. 26 October 2016.
  21. ^ "MP Lucy Allan demands new Telford child sex abuse inquiry". Shropshire Star. 12 September 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  22. ^ Cockbain, Ella; Tufail, Waqas (2020). "Failing victims, fuelling hate: challenging the harms of the 'Muslim grooming gangs' narrative". Race & Class. 61 (3): 3–32. doi:10.1177/0306396819895727. ISSN 0306-3968. S2CID 214197388.
  23. ^ Malik, Kenan (11 November 2018). "We're told 84% of grooming gangs are Asian. But where's the evidence?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020.
  24. ^ "Group-based Child Sexual Exploitation: Characteristics of Offending" (PDF). Home Office. December 2020.
  25. ^ "Telford child abuse survivors describe lasting impacts of horrific exploitation". ITV News. 12 July 2022. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  26. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (12 July 2022). "More than 1,000 children abused by grooming gangs in Telford amid decades of failings". The Independent. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  27. ^ Austin, Sue (12 July 2022). "Police chief embarrassed to acknowledge child exploitation 'failures of the past'". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  28. ^ Johnson, Becky (12 July 2022). "1,000 children groomed but unease about race meant Telford sexual exploitation ignored, inquiry finds". Sky News. Retrieved 15 July 2022.