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Telford leader calls for child sexual exploitation inquiry

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Telford & Wrekin Council has called on home secretary Amber Rudd to commission a public inquiry into cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE), specifically in Telford.

A number of reviews of CSE have already taken place in the borough but the council now believes only an independent inquiry commissioned by the government is now appropriate.

Seven men were jailed in 2013 for child prostitution in the town after the Operation Chalice investigation.

However, fresh allegations were made in the Sunday Mirror that up to 1,000 children could have been victim to abuse in Telford over the last 40 years.

Telford & Wrekin Council’s leader Shaun Davies (Lab) 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. This must have complete independence.

“We have nothing to hide and have been transparent throughout.”

Cllr Davies said a 2016 Ofsted inspection found the council and its partners to be working well together to tackle the issue of CSE. The council and West Mercia Police set up a children abused through exploitation (CATE) team in 2008, and further funding was put into this to further support work on CSE in Telford in 2016.

“The council, police and other partners’ practice has changed dramatically, however I will welcome any further light that an independent inquiry can help shed on this vile crime and further improve practice here and the many other places in the UK where [this] has and continues to happen,” said Cllr Davies. “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.

“Tackling child sexual abuse remains the council’s top priority and everyone has a role to play.”

West Mercia Police’s assistant chief constable Martin Evans said tackling CSE is “the number one priority for police in Telford”. He said the issue had risen in profile, in part due to Operation Chalice, and added: “We are aware of all the cases the Sunday Mirror newspaper has directly referenced. This information is not new to the police.”

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