12 July 2022

Police and council apologise ‘wholeheartedly’ to Telford child sex abuse victims

12 July 2022

West Mercia Police has apologised to the victims of child sex abuse in Telford – saying its actions “fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us”.

The force described its response as “unacceptable”, adding: “We let you down.”

Telford and Wrekin Council also apologised “wholeheartedly” to the survivors for the “pain they have gone through”.

Speaking on behalf of West Mercia Police, Assistant Chief Constable Richard Cooper said: “I would like to say sorry.

“Sorry to the survivors and all those affected by child sexual exploitation in Telford.

“While there were no findings of corruption, our actions fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us, it was unacceptable, we let you down.

“It is important we now take time to reflect critically and carefully on the context of the report and the recommendations that have been made.”

Mr Cooper continued: “Whilst we are in a different place now there are no excuses for the past.

“What I can give you are assurances that we have made vast improvements to the way we tackle these crimes, but we cannot and will not stop there.

“We’re absolutely committed to continually looking to improve our approach.

“We now have teams dedicated to preventing and tackling child exploitation.

“We also have an Online Child Sexual Exploitation Team (Ocset) to ensure that we are targeting offenders both online and in person.

“The way we work with other agencies has evolved and we now work better together so that we can act quickly to safeguard children at risk of being targeted and prevent harm whenever we can.”

Mr Cooper urged anyone who thinks they are being exploited to come forward, saying: “We will listen and we will act on any information given to us.”

Issuing its apology to victims in a short statement, the council said: “We apologise wholeheartedly to victims and survivors for the pain they have gone through and thank them for sharing their experiences with the inquiry, which must have been incredibly difficult to do.

“Child sexual exploitation is a vile crime that disgusts us and all right-thinking people.

“The independent inquiry acknowledges we have made significant improvements in recent years.

“We are working very hard, day in and day out, to provide the best possible support for victims of this crime.

Our actions fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us, it was unacceptable, we let you down.

“We will continue to work alongside and listen to victims and survivors.

“Telford & Wrekin Council commissioned the report that dates back to 1989 and accept the Inquiry’s recommendations, many of which we are already carrying out.”

In 2018, a Sunday Mirror investigation concluded that around 1,000 children could have been sexually exploited in the Shropshire town over a 40-year period, leading to calls for a public inquiry which was commissioned later that year by Telford and Wrekin Council.

The inquiry’s chairman, Tom Crowther QC, said the Mirror expose, led by reporters including Geraldine McKelvie, was an “entirely measured, reasonable and non-sensational assessment”.

Mr Crowther added: “Inquiries like this, at their best, drive change.

“They can only do so if the organisations and agencies that are subject to criticism accept the spirit in which those comments are made and review the findings I have made in a way that is reflective and self-critical.

“Neither reflexive denial, deflection of blame, nor excessively optimistic statements would be a useful response.”

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