Over 1,000 children have been abused by grooming gangs in Telford, but “racial jitters” meant cases went uninvestigated

More than 1,000 children have been abused by sexual grooming gangs in the English town of Telford amid decades of failures by police and authorities.

An independent inquiry found that rape, sexual abuse, brainwashing, drug abuse and other crimes in the city of Shropshire had “thrived unchecked” since the 1970s.

Similar findings came out after the 2014 report on grooming gang activities in Rotherham and investigations in other towns, and the Telford report says child sexual exploitation (CSD) “still exists today and is widespread across the country is”.

Inquiry leader Tom Crowther QC said “obvious signs” of exploitation such as teenage pregnancy and enforced disappearances were ignored as children were labeled as prostitutes or blamed for their “lifestyle” and perpetrators were released.

“The exploitation was not investigated due to racial jitters,” as the perpetrators were reported primarily to be Asian males, he concluded.

“Teachers and youth workers have been discouraged from reporting child sexual exploitation. The perpetrators were emboldened and the exploitation continued for years without a concerted response.”

The investigation found that even after an operation by West Mercia Police was launched in 2009 and resulted in multiple prosecutions, the force and the local council “virtually reduced their specialized CSE teams to zero – to save money”.

At least one victim of grooming gangs in Telford, pregnant 16-year-old Lucy Lowe, was murdered – and her death was then used as a threat to keep other victims quiet.

She was murdered along with her mother and sister by her then 26-year-old perpetrator, Azhar Ali Mehmood, who set their house on fire in 2000.

Lucy had Mehmood’s first child when she was 14 and had been abused by him since she was 12, but he has not been charged with any sex offences.

Simultaneous media reports called Lucy his “girlfriend” and spoke of a “stormy relationship”.

Another victim, 13-year-old Becky Watson, died in an unexplained car accident in 2002.

Mr Crowther said failures by the police, council and other authorities had allowed for the “appalling suffering of generations of children” who were treated as “sex articles” and either passed around for sex or sold for profit by their abusers.

He added: “Countless children have been sexually assaulted and raped. They were intentionally humiliated and degraded. They were shared and traded. They were subjected to violence and their families threatened. They lived in fear and their lives were changed forever.”

Mr Crowther said it would be “completely wrong and undoubtedly racist to equate membership of a particular racial group with propensity to commit CSD” and that there had been perpetrators of different races, nationalities and backgrounds.

“A high proportion of these cases involved perpetrators who were described by victims/survivors and others as Asian or often Pakistani,” he added.

“The evidence clearly shows that the majority of CSD suspects in Telford were males of South Asian descent.”

The report said there had been “racial tensions” over several issues in the local community that police and council did not want to “escalate”.

The investigation lasted three years and covered abuse dating back to 1989, although it uncovered reports of victims being assaulted as early as the 1970s.

“For decades, CSE thrived unhindered in Telford,” Crowther said. “I saw that evidence of exploitation had become ‘cross-generational’, seen as ‘normal’ by perpetrators and inevitable by victims and survivors, some of whom parents had had similar experiences.

“Such attitudes can only develop if exploitation is not properly recognized and combated, and I think Telford – like many other towns in England – was not the case for many years.”

The 1,200-page report found the abuse was not hidden and police, schools and the city council had known about it since the 1990s.

But red flags such as repeated cases of missing girls, teenage pregnancies and reports in the local press of what was then called “child prostitution” have not been adequately addressed by Telford and Wreakin Council or West Mercia Police.

Meanwhile, the victims have been berated for their “lifestyle choices” and accused of putting themselves in danger.

A survivor told the inquest how she was expelled from school after becoming pregnant during the abuse, and that a teacher told her to “stop sleeping with these boys or she’d never make anything of herself.” .

According to the report, victims were often ensnared using the “boyfriend model” of grooming, in which they were attacked by older men who were looking for young and vulnerable girls.

Abusers, who sometimes worked as taxi drivers and food deliverers, would take their victims away, buy them groceries, alcohol, cigarettes and phone credit, convince them they were in a relationship, and then make them increasingly dependent.

The girls were then encouraged to engage in sexual activity and given to other men as “favours” or payment for the gifts.

Victims were also threatened if they complied, sometimes being driven to remote locations and told they would be abandoned if they did not engage in sexual behavior.

Some were told their families were being injured or “simply raped,” the report said.

The abuse was linked to a rise in teenage pregnancies in the early 2000s, although many victims were believed to have had abortions.

“Key organizations should reflect on why it took them so long to respond when the lives of children – and consequently the lives of the adults they would become – were being eroded by exploitation,” Crowther said.

He said that when the sunday mirror 2018 reported that “up to 1,000 girls” may have been sexually exploited in Telford over four decades, some officials wrote off the figure as an exaggeration.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the sunday mirror Estimate is a fully measured, reasonable and non-sensational assessment,” the Chairman concluded.

The report contains numerous recommendations aimed at making progress, listening to victims and preventing abuse.

West Mercia Police formally apologized to the victims and all those affected.

Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Cooper said: “While no corruption was found, our actions fell far short of the help and protection you should have received from us. It was unacceptable, we let you down. It is important that we now take the time to critically and carefully reflect on the content of the report and the recommendations made.”

A Telford and Wreakin council spokesman also apologized, adding: “We’ve made significant improvements over the last few years. We work at full speed every day to provide the victims of this crime with the best possible support.

“We will continue to work with and listen to victims and survivors.”

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/britain/over-1000-children-abused-by-grooming-gangs-in-telford-but-nervousness-about-race-meant-cases-not-investigated-41835601.html Over 1,000 children have been abused by grooming gangs in Telford, but “racial jitters” meant cases went uninvestigated

Fry Electronics Team

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