In April 2018, an independent inquiry was commissioned to investigate child sexual exploitation within the Borough of Telford and Wrekin. This month, the findings of this investigation were released, revealing significant failings on the part of Telford and Wrekin Council from as far back as 1989.
The report found that evidence of child sex crimes in Telford had been consistently ignored by local authorities and children were regularly blamed for the abuse they suffered. Horrifyingly, in some cases children were even identified as “child prostitutes” and were subsequently prosecuted.
We find it especially disturbing how long this pattern of abuse went on for, and that some agencies appear to have been actively discouraged from taking action. This is highlighted in the report as it describes exploitation in the area becoming “generational”, with perpetrators normalising the abuse whilst victims and survivors came to see it as “inevitable”.
The impact of ongoing exploitation combined with a lack of support cannot be understated and we know that this is not the first report to show a pattern of abuse and inactivity by child protection agencies.
As Abuse Lawyers, we are horrified by the findings of the inquiry into child sexual abuse in Telford and we sincerely hope the recommendations put forward in the report are acted on as a matter of urgency.
What Were the Inquiry’s key Findings?
After speaking to survivors of child sexual abuse in Telford, the inquiry found that children were regularly subjected to ongoing violence and “lived in fear” as their families were frequently threatened.
The report also described how perpetrators of the abuse would use the “boyfriend model” to take advantage of young vulnerable girls. This would involve giving them lifts and buying them food and alcohol before demanding sexual “favours” as repayment.
In addition to the actions of the offenders, the report also commented on the continued lack of response from local authorities. Particularly concerning is the fact that social workers and teachers were actively discouraged from reporting abuse without “concrete proof”.
There was also a widespread lack of police action which led to offenders becoming “emboldened” by the fact that they were not likely to face consequences. We find the insufficient response of local authorities in these cases deeply concerning, especially given that sexual exploitation remains an issue within the area of Telford and in other areas of the UK.
In the first six months of 2020, the Police received 172 referrals that related to sexual exploitation. This makes it even more vital that immediate and effective action is taken to ensure that support is available for survivors of child sexual abuse and that perpetrators face appropriate repercussions.
What Needs to Happen Next?
After the results of the inquiry were published, Telford and Wrekin Council issued a widespread apology. However, recent police evidence of an “unacceptable” and “offensive” attitude towards victims of child sexual abuse in Telford suggests there is still significant work to be done.
In the report, it was recommended that a joint review team should be formed to publish an annual review on child abuse in Telford. We would encourage Telford and Wrekin Council to implement this recommendation as soon as possible to prevent more young people suffering abuse from going under the radar.
The report also referenced children who had been prosecuted for “child prostitution” and recommended that their convictions should be completely removed.
We hope that Telford and Wrekin Council and its associated child protection agencies accept the recommendations put forward in this report and implement change to help prevent this kind of exploitation from continuing.
We know that speaking up about experiences with abuse can be extremely difficult. If you’ve suffered abuse as a child, we could help you get access to support and compensation.
Our Abuse Law team have experience in dealing with cases of sexual exploitation and we’ll handle your case with the sensitivity it requires. Get in touch with our experienced Abuse Law team for a free, confidential case assessment.
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