The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council has today called on the Home Secretary to commission an independent public inquiry into cases of child sexual exploitation specifically in Telford.
Cllr Shaun Davies is requesting a Government-commissioned independent inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse (CSE) in Telford prior to Operation Chalice – one of the UK’s first successful prosecutions of CSE offences that saw seven men from Telford jailed.
The Council believes another Council-commissioned inquiry is not appropriate as its independence and scope could be called into question.
The Home Office, Department for Education, Ofsted and a cross party Council scrutiny committee have previously reviewed the council, police and other partners.
In 2013 the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board commissioned and published an independent review into child sex exploitation.
Previous independent inquiries into child sex exploitation in Telford identified the introduction by the Council and Police of the Children Abused Through Exploitation (CATE) Team in 2008 as the start of changes in practice, which are now recognised regionally and nationally.
In 2016 an Ofsted report said there was a strong commitment from the local authority and its partners to tackle child sexual exploitation.
The report said: “Work with children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation is very strong. The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue. It provides leadership to partner agencies, with who this work is well coordinated. Work to protect children who go missing from home or care is thorough and improving.
“There is a strong commitment from the local authority and its partners to tackle child sexual exploitation… consequently, young people receive comprehensive and well-coordinated services that make a positive difference.”
In late 2016 both the Council and West Mercia Police Crime Commissioner put extra funding into the CATE and police teams to further support work on CSE in Telford.
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. This must have complete independence.
“We have nothing to hide and have been transparent throughout – since I became leader 2 years ago, we have been inspected by OFSTED on this issue and been visited by the Home Office and Dept of Education.
“However, I feel we must do everything possible to know and learn further from what happened in the period before Operation Chalice jailed seven men for vile crimes against children.
“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 has and continues to happen.“
“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.”