As a community, the last few weeks have been difficult. We have all been shocked by revelations of the scale of horrific offences of child sexual exploitation (CSE), and by the realisation that we may never fully know the extent of what happened.
We know CSE is something that affects towns and cities up and down the country. By its nature, the victims may not realise that what has happened to them is a crime; they and those around them may see themselves to be at fault. For too many it is the shame and stigma of what has happened that keeps them silent.
Over the last few years, people have told me about their experiences. For some it is a sense of injustice that perpetrators have avoided jail and for others that the authorities appear not to accept or understand what happened.
Now Spring is coming to Telford, and Telford is starting to look its beautiful best, as winter retreats. Easter is a time of renewal, healing and hope. As we move through this difficult time together, we know we will come out the other side, stronger and wiser.
It is time for us to heal.
To do that we first need to know what happened. We can’t just move on, without first being reconciled with the past. To focus only on the positive, and forget what went before would be to dismiss the victims and their families.
I welcome the Council’s agreement that we need an independent inquiry in Telford. This will enable us to rebuild trust and have absolute confidence that our authorities understand the issues that caused the problem.
I also welcome the announcement that the Truth Project will come to Telford. This an opportunity for victims to tell their story in a supportive environment, with no legal consequences. I hope those that choose to take part find the process healing.
Of course, the Truth Project is not a substitute for the independent inquiry. Our community deserves answers to serious questions and on that we are all agreed.
We all have a responsibility to keep our children safe, but we also as a community, as a society, have a right to expect justice. We have a right to expect those responsible to be held to account. Justice is a basic human need – without justice how do we heal?